The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1  (NIV)

Let’s put aside the tearing down—there’s already too much of that going on—and think about being builders.  Don’t you find that prospect exciting?  So what if we’ve made mistakes or haven’t been perfect?  (As if anyone is…)  Joel 2:25 speaks to past mistakes or regrets:  …I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.  In essence, God’s redemptive power even touches those times we wish we could redo.  He is able to transform the past and give us hope for the future.

When I think of building, I think about all the joys we can bring to our families.  Lest we can’t think of a thing we can contribute, Proverbs 31 sets out a composite of the Ideal Woman.  I don’t have a vineyard to plant, and I haven’t spun any thread lately (or ever), but I do know the joy of arranging flowers for my family to enjoy and am pretty talented at spinning stories for the grandchildren.  We all have unique gifts that can be honed for blessing our families.  We just need to get in building mode.

Someone said that women are the thermostat of the home; they set the temperature for everyone.  Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles and 17 others!) set the tone for her household by huddling in prayer in the mornings with an apron pulled over her head.  From those two-hour prayer sessions, she emerged to teach and shape her children and her community almost single-handedly.

I rarely use an apron for anything, but my prayer time can reach out to my family and those I love just as effectively as those prayers of Susanna, and I can demonstrate love in ways that affirm and encourage.  I can be alert to the gifts that are beginning to blossom in my little ones (grandchildren) and praise their parents for their faithfulness during rough patches.  I can sacrificially give them my time, put aside my own activities, and offer undivided attention.

Susanna spent time alone with each of her children throughout the week, teaching, listening, and encouraging them.  Her son John later commented on how special those times were to him and his personal growth.  Even with just one or two children, I wonder how much time we devote in a week to each child?

Think of the opportunities we have to shape lives within our realm of influence.  What can you do to build your house?  It’s never too late.  Have you ever been driving with a GPS system, and you inadvertently get off track?  Siri (or whatever her name may be) says, “Recalculating…”  And eventually, you get back on course.  So, you may have gotten off course in your building project.  Recalculate and get back to work.


Lord, what a glorious opportunity you have given us to bless our families.  Open our hearts and imaginations to touch each one today with your love.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

One of the really beautiful things about having adult children is that one can sit back and take pleasure in conversation between them without having to be the monitor.  They reach the age where they enjoy each other and appreciate who each has become.

I’ve just returned from a family birthday dinner.  My two children, spouses, and four grandchildren were all there, chatting, beaming, loving on one another.  Even the grands were laughing and teasing each other and sharing funny pictures they’d created with their IPhones.  I could resonate with the Psalmist who said, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!”  (Psalm 133:1)  The evening ended with the children’s enthusiastic discussion of where we should all go for vacation next year.

I am certain my children love and appreciate each other because of family traditions that began generations ago.  I watched my mom and her two brothers interact and knew that they had been taught respect and love for others and for themselves.  And they learned to entertain each other.  It was fun hearing them tell stories of growing up with neighborhood children parading in and out of the house.  Everyone always sensed they were welcome.

When my brother and I were growing up, if we got even close to arguing, my mom would make us recite to each other, “… be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32)  That wasn’t so bad, but after we’d spoken Scripture to one another, we had to hug and kiss.  That was deterrent enough to keep us on the straight and narrow.

We spent nights with our grandparents, often sleeping on the big feather bed with little Grandma sandwiched between us.  We’d roll to the center, and when the bed slats shifted, the whole contraption fell to the floor with the three of us laughing hysterically.  We’d put the bed back together, and the process was repeated until we were all so tired, we didn’t bother with the slats and just slept on the floor.

Dinner time at home was special because the rules were suspended.  Except for good manners.  One night my dad put giant marbles in his pocket and told us he was so tired, he thought his eyes would drop out.  Suddenly, he managed to make it appear that his eyes were falling out of his head.  My brother laughed so hard, he and his chair fell over.  And then we all had a turn doing the marble trick.

Simple little times of laughter and fun with our parents and grandparents who were otherwise the unquestioned authority figures in our home.  But everyone knew how to laugh and to ensure that we were all included.

There are so many encouraging stories and admonitions in the Bible for parents and for families – from the single person, to the widow, to the orphan, to large or small families.  We learn to train children in the way they should go; we’re admonished to model Christ-like behavior and to discipline with gentleness and care; and we’re instructed to pray for and with each other.  Mostly, we learn to love

Then as our children grow up, it’s funny how they replicate what they’ve seen and heard.  And it’s so good to see them loving each other.


Father, thank you for working in all our lives and for making up the differences when we fail as parents and family members.  Help us to support and encourage our children as they pick up their responsibilities as parents.  And help us to remember that we made our share of mistakes.  Thanks for your patience.  AMEN.



So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…  Ephesians 2:19

My doctor is retiring.  I saw him this week for the last time professionally, and it was a bittersweet time for me.  Dr. B saved my life.

Many years ago when I was teaching and working on a graduate degree, I had to leave school one day because of intense back ache.  Back pain was nothing new to me; I was born with a mild case of spina bifida, which tended to affect many of my activities and complicate ordinary illnesses.

My mother gathered my two children and me to stay with her and my dad until this latest episode passed.  I took the pills that were my standby, but the pain increased.  After a few weeks, I was pretty much bedfast.  And then came tingling in my legs with visual and hearing impairment.

My doctor decided to hospitalize me for tests.  Batteries were run, and I tried to describe my symptoms to a noted neurologist.  Later, he called my mom to see if I was mentally stable.  When nothing of significance showed up, I was released—with intense back pain, tingling, visual and hearing impairment, and headaches.

We were praying in earnest for healing and diagnosis of the malady that for me was much more than mental instability.  All along Pastor Schwanenberg and Gloria had been visiting and praying with me.  One day they that said Dr. B, a church member, was interested in my case and wondered if my family would like him to give another opinion.  Without hesitation, we accepted his offer.

I was hospitalized again, and more tests were run.  Between tests church friends were visiting and cheering me on.  My friend, Linda, brought me a book and was with me when I received a call from my insurance agent.  I was waiting to see if coverage extended to the multiple tests and hospital stay.  I thanked my agent for calling, but somehow, without my saying a word, Linda left knowing my congenital malformation had exempted the company from covering conditions related to the back.

The next day or so, Dr. B came in with a smile.  He said they’d determined the problem; it was pernicious anemia, so called because before it was learned that vitamin B-12 injections could treat the anemia, most people who developed the disease died from it.  He began frequent injections of B-12 and within a day I was walking, and my symptoms were decreasing.

When I was released from hospital care, Papa came to pick me up.  He entered my hospital room with a smile and an envelope.  He always loved to joke, and he kept me in suspense about the contents.  Finally, Papa told me that when Linda had left the hospital, she went straight to Pastor Schwanenberg telling him about my insurance dilemma and wondering what the church could do.  By the time I was ready for release, my dad had in hand an envelope from my church with a check to pay all the hospital expenses.

Within a few days I was back at home and then back to work.  I called Dr. B’s office to see about paying his bill, which I suspected would be quite large.  Instead, the bookkeeper told me that the doctor had written it off in its entirety.  I’m not sure they make doctors like Dr. B anymore, but I am grateful that God brought this one and all those saints into my life.


Loving Father, thank you for the Church, your Body, and all the saints who bless us in so many ways.  Help me to love in deed just as I’ve been loved.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…  Ephesians 3:20  (KJV)


I am reading a book about a group of women in Germany who responded to a call to live together in community and service just after World War II.  Initially, they stayed with the parents of the founder but prayed that God would provide property, funds, and materials to build a chapel and a Mother House in the devastated remains of Darmstadt.


The book, Realities of Faith by Basilea Schlink, is astonishing as it details persevering prayer, how the women broached hindrances to their prayers, and divine provision as they dedicated themselves to God’s glory.  One of the stories tells of their needing a particular piece of land on which to build their print shop; however, the owner, an elderly lady, was intent on keeping everything she had ever inherited and would not part with the land.  The women prayed and fasted, and, in their poverty, each felt directed to sacrifice some personal thing (a little wooden cross, a pretty picture, etc.).  Mother Basilea then visited the old lady and could hardly believe her ears when she was told, “I’m not too much sad about the land, but it’s the plum trees; I do hate to lose the plum trees.”  The women made and signed a contract that all the plums would go to the owner while the land would become the property of the religious order.


Over and over God met needs as the women prayed together, sacrificed, confessed their sins, and reconciled when there were grievances.  Today the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary has eleven orders all over the world.  They continue to live out and teach principles of reconciliation, justice, divine provision, and God’s love.


As I am reading Realities… I think of how our contemporary Church has moved away from expectant prayer.  We are so familiar with the rituals (every church has them) that we forget we are speaking to the Living God.  We take worship for granted, and when God does not answer a prayer for his glory, I wonder how often we examine ourselves to see if there are fractured relationships or unconfessed sin?  How frequently do we dare to make personal sacrifices that God’s work may continue?


Realities of Faith has been a wonderful reminder of who God is and wants to be in our lives and in our fellowships.  This is simply a journal of women who were serious about following Jesus and who found him to be everything and more than they ever hoped.


Father, thank you for the saints among us who encourage us in our journeys to climb higher and to get closer.  That really is our heart’s cry.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Ephesians 3:20  (NLT)


Only those who were truly intimate knew the difficult circumstances of Ms. Edith’s marriage.  Her husband was demanding, often unreasonable, and extremely careful about money.  The grace-filled life that people saw from the outside was almost entirely due to Ms. Edith’s interior life.


She said she’d given her heart to Jesus when she was a little girl of five, and she had never taken it back.  He was her best Friend, and she learned to utilize difficulties as vehicles for spiritual growth.  The very discomforts that could have crushed a soul were transformed instead into parables for the many who sought her counsel and who turned to her for comfort in their own trials.


There was a grief, however, that burdened Ms. Edith for years:  She anguished at Christmas or birthdays or occasions for giving gifts.  The budget imposed on Ms. Edith didn’t permit her generous soul to give as she would have liked.


After years of agonizing over this seemingly impossible constraint, Ms. Edith did what she did so well.  She prayed.  She asked God somehow to allow her to give abundantly from her heart.  And then the idea came.  Ms. Edith thought of all the fabric scraps she had from years of sewing, and she began experimenting with making appliquéd pictures.  At first they were simple, but as her confidence grew, and her imagination was given free rein, her pictures became works of art.


Cleverly, Ms. Edith invited her husband to craft frames for her creations, and together their artistry became known and highly desired in their community.  Friends and family were all hopeful they would be among those receiving a Ms. Edith picture.  As her skills grew, Ms. Edith was invited to teach in a local specialty shop, and her pieces soon were bringing in fees that she could not have imagined.


The limitation that had initially brought so much grief to Ms. Edith was embraced and became the incentive for reaching inside to allow the inner beauty to be expressed through her fingers.  While few people knew the pain that had been the impetus of her gift, everyone delighted in the joy that she had wrung from her sorrow.


Loving Father, thank you for transforming sorrow and pain and suffering into things of beauty as we trust you to grace and fill and use us for your dear purposes.  May we, like the oyster, learn to embrace the irritants that they might become objects of beauty to your glory.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6

I was assigned to serve in Uganda for about seven months. For years, Grandson Sam had accompanied me to work in a church community center, so it wasn’t unusual for him to accept my invitation to spend the summer in Goli. Sam was about to turn eighteen, and I’d gotten a placement for him in the village clinic with Sister Kim.

That summer Sam worked in the tiny lab peering at slides of native bacteria and local diseases, learning more than he would have from a text. He worked in the pharmacy dispensing drugs, and he accompanied doctors on their routes around the district and watched them perform surgeries. (He even picked up some of the local “bugs” on his visits.)

The business director of the diocese was a regular morning visitor in our little cinder block house and loved to share our hot tea and chapatti (local flat bread). When Rev. Martin discovered that Sam played an unusual instrument, a violin, he asked if he would play for Sunday service in the cathedral. Sam was thrilled and practiced a lovely Beethoven selection. He was already a local favorite, so when everyone learned that he would be playing a “western” instrument for church, there was great anticipation. That Sunday, the music stand was set up, Sam tuned his instrument, and began to play. Not a sound was heard other than the beautiful notes from Sam’s gifted fingers. And then the giggling began to ripple through the congregation. No one had ever heard such an instrument. Sam played on and on and finally ended to great applause and laughter.

Sam’s popularity grew, and he was often assaulted by the children who loved to pull him into their games. He hung out with the bishop’s children, and they all became fast friends. When he came down with malaria, despite taking his preventive meds and lathering himself with Deet, the whole diocesan compound was alarmed. Malaria was not something muzungus handled well. Sam was confined to his bed with fever, weakness, and all the dangerous symptoms brought about by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. Nurses from the clinic came to treat him, and Sister Kim directed her cook to make special broths for Sam. Villagers made enquiries about him. But two of my Ugandan friends did even more. Evaline and Esther sat up all night praying for him. No fanfare. No big deal. They prayed until they sensed Sam would get better. No one was surprised when he made a full recovery.

The time passed too quickly as we worked throughout the warm days and read to each other late into the night. One day we sat together in our little cinder block house sharing a companionable meal in silence. The doors were left open to catch any passing breeze, and our dogs and an occasional goat wandered in and out. I had given up on teaching our sweet cook how to prepare some of our familiar dishes, so we learned to take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables growing all around us.

In the middle of this idyllic situation, Sam spoke up. “Grandma, these people have nothing.” I waited. “But they’re happy,” Sam added. I had to agree. Did Sam recognize that the faith they had was worth more than any material blessing we Westerners value so much? “I’m so happy,” Sam went on. “I’m glad I’ve learned this at my age.”

How soon that summer was gone, and Sam left, taking with him the treasures he had gathered in Goli.

Father, you told us a little child would lead us. Sam saw and lived with God’s joy evidenced through the lives and love of our Goli friends. May he never forget, and may we always cherish those eternal things that can never be taken away. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


[He] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

Cookie is home to renew her visa. She has to return from Haiti every few months so that she can go back to work with orphans in their hillside sanctuary. Two years ago she responded to God’s call to go – just for a few months – and now she finds herself returning again and again.

Cookie is an English teacher committed to helping every one of her students learn to communicate in English. She knows that speaking English in Haiti is almost a sure guarantee of a decent job in the stressed economy. But that’s not why Cookie continues to return to Haiti after every break. This afternoon she elaborated on one of the many ways she sees God at work.

Some months ago a young mother came to the orphanage to confess that she had thrown her newborn into a garbage dump—about twelve hours earlier. Cookie and her fellow missioners had become inured to finding little ones who were discarded for one reason or another, but it was unusual for a mother to come with such news.

The small group of missioners hurried to a large trough, sixteen feet deep, where the baby had been tossed earlier in the day. One of the young men was able to climb into the pit, rummage around, and find the plastic bag that contained the baby. He hauled it up and put it on the ground as the others gathered round to pray. An inert little arm fell out of the bag, and as they prayed, they heard the sound of a massive intake of breath and then a cry. Miraculously, the baby girl was alive, unscratched, unmarked.

The missioners brought the little one back to their compound and cleaned her up, all the while thanking God for sparing her little life. One of the missionary couples was moved to adopt the baby and named her Faith, and she is now a thriving six-month-old toddler who is loved and coddled by all the missioners on campus.

And so, Cookie keeps going back to Haiti.

Father, thank you for reminding us of your great power as we call to you in faith believing. Thank you for Cookie and all those who reach out to touch lives in your name. Help us to faithfully “touch the one in front of us.” In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14 (NIV)

Early Christmas carols were sung in Latin, and since most of the people didn’t understand Latin, the practice fell out of favor after a few hundred years. (Imagine singing words you don’t understand at the church service.) But then St. Francis came along and introduced the Nativity Play in the Thirteenth Century along with songs that were sung in the language of the people. This was the beginning of the annual Christmas pageant.

Our family initiated a Nativity pageant when my children were small. Out came blankets for cloaks, scarves for headpieces, bathrobes for Joseph and the Wise Men, and my dad fashioned a manger from his shop scraps.  We made sets from packing boxes.  Momo played the piano as the cast sang and performed the Christmas story for the little ones.

The children have grown older and now have children of their own. We’ve done adaptations of Amahl and the Night Visitors, improvised versions of the Nativity story, revised traditional tales, and this year we will have an original story based on the characters’ preferences. (When five-year-old Caroline said she wanted to be a lamb in October, we knew this was important.) William has decided he will be a dog. The two teen-aged cousins, Mckenzie and Kassidee, have graciously accepted roles as the Two Wise Men. (The Third Wise Man had an undisclosed ailment which kept him from joining them.) Sam (now a young adult) is always the moving/flexible player. This year he will be a shepherd.

Putting together a skit with designated/determined characters is a little like cooking with the ingredients you have on hand. My little ones are set on being a lamb and a dog; the other three are fitting in. We have begun rehearsals with a story line that varies from practice to practice. Improvisation has been taken to a new level.

The whole point of this family tradition, like Francis’ ministry, is to make the story real, to allow the children to be part of the story and to connect with the Baby and his holy family. They are not just observers; they are the story. They experience a sense of Mary’s awe when Gabriel visits; of the holy couple’s rejection in Bethlehem; of the wonder of the shepherds (and lambs and dogs); and of the quest of the Wise Men. And as they participate, the Word becomes Flesh and lives with and in them.

Father, thank you for all the creative ways you’ve given us to share your story in word, in deed, and through our lives. Especially this season, help us to show Jesus to those we love best. AMEN.


He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a little over 5% of the U.S. population is unemployed. That doesn’t sound like many people, but if you look at those folks in our country who are over 18 years of age and don’t have jobs, that’s over 16 million people. The statistics are sobering, considering that each number represents a person for whom God has a plan.

While this data is disturbing, juxtapose that with a pundit’s recent comment about a woman who was detained at the aiirport as possibly infected with ebola. “No wonder she’s suing the government. Can you imagine being shut up in a room for 15 minutes without a cell phone [or any technology]? You’d be bored out of your mind.” Really? You don’t have enough creative imagination or thought process to occupy yourself for 15 minutes?

Perhaps unemployment and creativity are somehow related, but as God’s children we should know that we will never run out of opportunities to be “workers in his field.” There’s no unemployment. The needs are abundant, and each of us has been placed in a unique position to touch and love and minister where no one else has been called. There’s not a place to quit, and there’s no retirement from God’s work. Let’s pick ourselves up and keep going.

Oh, and can you think of just 3 things you could do if you were shut up for 15 minutes without your cell phone?

Lord, I ask that you would provide economic opportunities for those who are looking for work. Open doors they never expected and encourage them. And help us all to be diligent laborers in a needy world, many of whose members do not yet know you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
Have you looked lately at the list of fruit we’ll be bearing when we’re allowing the Holy Spirit to work freely in us? Let me remind you: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control, faithfulness. We don’t have to stress about producing fruit. I’ve never seen a fruit tree straining to produce apples or oranges or pears.

Just down the street my neighbor has a gorgeous pear tree. I love seeing the fragrant blooms that never fail to cover the tree in the spring time. I walk by that tree frequently, and I have not one time seen it demonstrating the least bit of anxiety as it blooms prolifically and later is covered with pears.

That tree stands silently rooted deep in the soil, absorbing the moisture of the rain and its faithful owner, and reaching up to enjoy the predictable Texas sunshine. The tree IS. And the tree ABIDES. When the proper season arrives, fruit grows.

If we stay rooted in the Word, drink in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, live in the light of Truth and transparency, we, too, will effortlessly be loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, meek, self-controlled, and faithful. No effort. God’s Spirit will flow out of us for his glory and the blessing of others.

Father, help us to stop striving and start obeying you by reading your Word, by being constantly refilled with your Spirit, and by walking in your Light. When we do this, we can’t help bearing fruit. AMEN.