Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The View From Here

Believe it or not, this beautiful picture is taken right outside my back door. One would think that with a view like this, I'd be outside enjoying it every minute. But over time I've come to take it for granted.

When my husband & I moved into this house 15 years ago, I had my coffee out on the back deck every morning it was over 60 degrees. We often ate dinner outside too. After the first year, life happened. We got busy. I got a promotion at work, his company took on a big project, next we had kids. And suddenly this view was forgotten.

Isn't our relationship with God like that sometimes? When our relationship is new we are so excited and want to spend so much time with God. Quiet time every morning, we enjoy our coffee with God. Then life happens. We get busy, and certainly our kids - especially babies keeping us up at night - interfere with our relationship with God. How can we get it back?

Friends can help. When a friend says to me, "Wow, the view here is amazing" I get reminded to enjoy it more. A friend can also be an accountability partner for your relationship with God, becoming a Bible study or prayer partner.

Schedule it! When often schedule a deck party so that we could enjoy the view with some friends. The same is true with God. If you schedule your quiet time every morning, or your Bible study every week you'll make it happen.

Get your kids involved. All it took was having dinner on the deck one night and now the kids want to eat out there every night. They too enjoy the view! And now that I do daily devotions with them, they can't wait for it to happen and ask if I forget.

It doesn't take much work to renew my interest in enjoying my view. And it doesn't take much work to renew your relationship with God either! Why not get started today?

With God in your life, you'll enjoy a new point of VIEW!

"Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health."
Proverbs 4:20, The Message Paraphrase Bible


Monday, June 27, 2011

When Disappointments Come...

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

"I have to check the calendar." How common a phrase is this? Oh how blessed we are that our calendars overflow with the fruit of family and friendships, activities and events. We make our plans, carefully gliding our Sharpie markers over the white space of our lives, marking the important dates and the times we are to be somewhere special. We build expectations of the revelrie we will share and expectations of how we will handle our own special events. It is those expectations that have the potential to rob us of our joy.

Think back to some of your most critical expectations, perhaps a special friendship, a marriage, a birthday party, your prayer life. In every facet of our lives, we design our expectations and though sometimes, they turn out exactly the way we planned, sometimes God has something different planned. Since I only have one day a week with a significant time frame to clean and prepare, I carefully map out that day with a firm agenda in mind. On one such day, the phone rang, smack in the middle of conquering mount laundry and scrubbing the whitest bathroom in our home. I had a choice to keep to my "firm" agenda or to answer the call that could potentially throw me way off track. Fortunately, the phone call,a wonderful diversion and blessed time of fellowship did not throw me off track, quite the opposite, it energized me and propelled me forward. This was not my expectation, and I was pleasantly surprised. I could have viewed the interruption as a disappointment, instead it was a blessing.

Disappointments happen; not just interruptions or changes in plans...true disappointments. A loved one dies suddenly, a marriage falls apart, children get sick, vacations get cancelled, financial burdens threaten to destroy...real life losses. So, as we seek God's purpose and put aside our own expectations, how do we keep our joy amidst the disappointments? We look to the cross where a curse becomes a blessing. The grace of God abounds even in the difficult times or "disappointing" times. When our eyes are closely fixed on the character of God and His deep desire to provide for us in all circumstances, it lessens the chances of our hearts being bitter or remaining disappointed when our prayers are not answered our way or when our expectations are not met.

Recently, our nine year old daughter became ill just in time for her school's Field Day. She had looked forward to it for weeks and was disappointed that her fever would render her unable to attend. I was surprised at her ability to healthily cope with her sadness. She said she had wanted to play games and be with her friends, but that God had a better plan for her to spend a quiet day alone with her grandmother playing like they did when she was little. She was able to find God's goodness and grace in this situation. When the day was over she rejoiced in all the happy moments. I learned an important lesson from my daughter that day. I spent the day at school lamenting and missing her, I had a certain amount of bitterness welling up within. God quieted me and my disappointment with the joy of a child and her grandmother. Sometimes, it is our job to surrrender our expectations, making room for God's perfect plan, even when it does not match ours.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

are you going in circles?

My oldest daughter and her family left last Saturday headed for Pennsylvania where her husband will be working for 6 months. It was a long trip from Louisiana especially with 4 children ages 1, 3,5 and 8. On their second day of traveling, my grandson Eli, who is 5, told his mama "I think we are driving in circles. I keep seeing that same Cracker Barrel". Of course, she had to explain to him that there are many Cracker Barrel's around and that they were not driving in circles. But as she told me this story and we laughed about it, the Lord began speaking to me.

Have you ever felt like you were going in circles in your spiritual life? Has the Lord ever dealt with you on certain aspects of your walk and you think you have been obedient, but then you find yourself right back in the same mess again?

There are times when we think that we have allowed God to work in our lives to resolve certain attitudes or actions that are anything but godly and holy. We tend to be under the assumption that once we have acknowledged our sin and confess it to our Lord, that we have taken the necessary steps to totally circumcise those ungodly and unholy behaviors from our lives. But that just isn't the case. It not only takes admission of sin and confession of sin, but it also takes true repentance. 

Repent is the translation of a Greek verb metanoeo, which means 'to change the mind'.  If we honestly have a repentant heart, then we have changed our mind in  respect to our sin, to God and to our self. When we honestly desire to be like Jesus, we desire to do whatever it takes to make that happen. We have to change the way we think and the way we act. We have to completely turn away from those sinful areas of our lives and turn to a life of obedience in Christ.

If we fail to do this, we are just going to keep passing that same Cracker Barrel. Over and over again. And we will keep repenting of the same sins over and over again. We will be making no headway in our quest to follow after God and walk in His ways. We have to give it to God and surrender our will to His. Allow Him to help us make the necessary changes in our lives so that we can walk like Him, talk like Him and follow Him all the days of our lives.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Exemplary Leadership

Exemplary Leadership

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, in The Leadership Challenge Workbook, list five ways for people to provide healthy and consistent leadership.

1) Model the way
It is easy to teach how to live, but can we model the level of character we are teaching about?

2) Inspire a shared vision
Good leaders invite the people they are leading to have a stake not only in the organization as it currently exists, but in what it can become.

3) Challenge the process
If we look about us we might see things currently being done that are not effective. Questions might spark some ideas or make us aware of where and how we can do better. “Am I getting the results I would like?” is one such question.

4) Enable others to act
Leaders don’t do everything for everybody. Rather, they teach others how to care for themselves and fulfill their mission in life.

5) Encourage the heart.
Learning how to act on our own can be discouraging at times, so the leaders stand by to encourage them.

These five practices of exemplary leadership can be applied to businesses, community service clubs, and churches. It can even be applied to families.

Moms and Dads who do their jobs well are functioning with the five practices of exemplary leadership. If they teach their children to tell the truth, and they tell the truth themselves, they are modeling the right way to live.

If they share their view of the Christian life and encourage them to pursue that in their future, they are fulfilling number two, inspiring the shared vision.

If they question themselves at least occasionally about how well they are filling their role and how they could do better, they are challenging the process and are opening themselves up for more growth for themselves and their children. Questioning themselves doesn’t mean they are needlessly harsh or doubt their own value, but that they ask how they are doing and how they can do better.

Fourthly, healthy parents enable their children to act. They teach them proper behavior and as they mature and grow, give them rope to move and act. And when children move and act, they will make mistakes and even experience some rebellious streaks. Moms and dads will have to step in and reprimand and punish. But they will also step in with necessary encouragement so their hearts will not become discouraged (that’s number five).

Whether they are always aware of it or not, parents who function for the health of their family and children are practicing exemplary leadership. Thanks, moms and dads!

Warren Baldwin

Friday, June 17, 2011

Saying Grace

I can't say that we say "grace" before every meal - at least not where Corn Flakes are concerned. And most meals that come in a bag from a drive-thru window probably don't get "blessed" either. Perhaps they should.

But I can say that every evening, when our family gathers for dinner, we say "grace." Like many families, we pause to give thanks for God's goodness. And we ask His blessing.

About a week or so ago, my middle child sweetly asked if she could have the honors. Of my three kids, Brynn is the quiet one. Generally speaking, she'd rather let someone else do the "talking." So I was tickled when she actually wanted to say a prayer before dinner.

With great solemnity, she folded her small hands and asked in her most serious voice . . .

"Dear God, please help Mom's chili to taste good. Amen."

Well, I guess there's no hiding the fact that I'm not exactly known for my stove-top skills.

At my house, saying "grace" is more like an opportunity to give me grace. Lord knows I need it. Especially when it comes to cooking.

It makes me wonder. How often do we "say grace" to one another? In the little things. The inconsequential things. Extending grace - to people. Giving thanks - for people.

I think I need to practice "saying grace" throughout my day. Intentional grace-saying.

What would our marriages look like if we practiced speaking grace to one another throughout our day?


The picture is from a painting by one of my favorite artists - Norman Rockwell.

Monday, June 13, 2011

In Honor of the Dads...

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;" Psalm 103:13

I was sixteen or seventeen. Funny, there are some details I can't recall of an evening I vowed I would NEVER, EVER forget. Regardless of my age, it was the events of this timeframe in my life that have stuck with me all these years. The love of my life (as high school romance goes) had broken my heart. His eye was caught by a tall, leggy blond up the street and somehow my petite, raven haired self no longer made his heart go pitter patter. My parents comforted me, turning on every light in the house that late fall night.

Sad and lonely, I would spend my normal date nights at home. My dad and I fell into a routine of watching movies after dinnertime, while my friends continued their date night rituals with their boyfriends. One such night, we rented the movie Ice Castles. A classic, in my opinion, we cried through pretty much the whole movie. Yes, WE cried. My dad, an engineer by trade is a gentle, loving man, who learned very young that his soft spots are very soft, and he has always yielded to the way God has afforded him the beauty of deep emotion. At one point my dad even shared his heartfelt desire to be a pastor...though this never came to fruition, my dad has served in multiple capacities in the church and has always honored my mother and his family in congruence to the scripture. He is a Godly man and I believe this has made an enormous impact in the life of his daughter.

A few weeks later, I sang and played an instrument for the high school Christmas concert. After we played, we were relegated to the audience while other groups had their time on stage. I had seen no program and had not viewed the other groups performances until that evening. The select choir took the stage and I heard the familiar chords of the theme from Ice Castles. I panicked. I knew I would cry the ugly cry if I stayed, so my only option was to exit the auditorium until it was over. I stealthily executed a perfect departure, and somehow even managed to keep my long taffeta skirt quiet as I slipped out the door. As the door slammed shut behind me, I turned to find my dad there just behind the door, his eyes wet with emotion and he admitted he'd never have made it through "that song" and with a wink, he embraced me as only a father can.

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4

I have told and re-told this story. I was blessed to have a dad who was there, always there. He travelled weekly for work and yet, I never recall a time he wasn't there. Like my Heavenly Father, my earthly father has always been available. So, I pause and think about the God I love and the man, created in His image who so many times embodied the love that Christ taught him first. I am so thankful my dad has always been an integral participant in my life and not a casual observer.

Like this, the Lord meets us behind the door, in our seat, walking along...everywhere. He delights when we wake in the morning eager for His Word and His gentle embrace. He hears the chords of a familiar song and rushes to us, waiting to lavish us in His love and comfort us, if necessary. Even if our earthly fathers are not able, for whatever reason, to provide love and blessing; our Heavenly Father is! He willingly and openly provides us with our every need. This Father's Day, I celebrate my own dad; a great man. And I celebrate a merciful Father, ready for our undivided attention and willing to give us His undivided attention.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1


Friday, June 10, 2011


The great commission:  Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV bold mine)

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've probably heard of the great commission.  I grew up hearing it preached from the pulpit.  "Go and tell everyone!" So why did I grow up confused about these orders from Jesus himself?

I felt under-qualified!

I knew my life was a light to others (well I hoped it was), but actually leading someone to salvation - okay that's where the nerves kicked in (insert scrunched up face and fingernail biting!) What would I say to an unsaved person?  How would I pray for them?  What if I forgot something?????

God showed me something amazing this year.  He used a new friend in my Bible study to teach me the simplicity of salvation.  You see, she had gone forward at a Baptist camp when she was 11 or 12 and accepted Christ as her Savior, but the years had allowed her to drift away.

Being part of our Bible study catapulted her back into the Lords arms.  But now she was asking me, (insert scrunched up face and nail biting!) "Am I really saved?"


Immediately God had me quote (as best I could) Romans 10:9-10, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

I realized for the first time how simple salvation really was.  No magic prayer, no right or wrong words.  Just a belief followed by a confession.

It was a precious time of conversation, and we concluded she was indeed saved, but a re-dedication was in order.  The very next Bible study, she stood up in front of 150 ladies and confessed that Jesus was Lord of her life!

We all applauded and I cried!  These were tears of joy and excitement, not only because my friend had declared her salvation, but because God showed me the simplicity of the great commission!

I've had an opportunity to share this knowledge with one other lady who also needed to confess with her mouth Jesus is Lord!  WOW, the sky is the limit now!

Here I am, Lord send me!!!!!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

let's have church!

Too often, we think of church as someplace we go on Sunday morning and and occasionally on Sunday nights. And if we are really good Christians, we go on Wednesday night for prayer meeting.  I know there are a lot of places that don't even have church on Sunday nights. We even have a church in our small parish that is actually going to vote on whether or not they will continue having Sunday night services! That just floored me when I heard it. It's hard to imagine that we would even consider not having church on Sunday nights because our attendance wasn't big enough. If only 10 people came, it would be still be beneficial to those 10 to have church!

Our problem is that we have too many other things to do and too many other distractions in the world. So church has become something that we just kind of 'fit into our schedule'. We go if there isn't a ball game or a dance recital or something good on television. We have let the world become what is important in our lives and we have started pushing our spiritual lives to the wayside.

If we are going to grow in our spiritual walk with Christ and if we are going to become closer and more intimate with our Lord, we have to put Him first in ALL things. Church needs to be our number one priority on Sundays, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. We need to be excited about the privilege we have of being able to worship openly and freely. We need to have the attitude that we get to go to church instead of  we have to go to church. 

We started an extra 'prayer and share meeting' on Tuesday or Thursday nights in our congregation.We hold our meetings in someones home and we just gather together (everyone is invited) and read scripture, share praises or problems and then we pray. We pray for each other, for those in need and  most importantly we pray for the lost. Our small group has doubled since our first meeting and we have had such fabulous times of sharing and prayer. Some people don't understand why we would meet for a 'fourth' time during the week, but they don't understand how powerful the gathering together of fellow Christians can be! We have grown closer as a body of Christ and are beginning to reach out more to others. We have learned to be more sensitive to those who are hurting or in need. We have developed a deeper burden for those who are lost. We feel like we are growing in our relationship with Jesus and therefore we will be better able to minister to those around us.

I challenge anyone who is ready to take that next step to a closer relationship with our Savior to begin a 'prayer and share meeting' in your own church fellowship. There is no better time than now to start really learning what church is all about. It's not about us. It's not about  meeting just 3 times a week. It's about a new excitement in our lives as Christ begins to draw us and beckon to us to spend more and more time with Him. It's all about Jesus.

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto
love and to good works: Not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of
some is; but exhorting one another: and so
much the more, as ye see the day approaching"
(Hebrews 10:24-25)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parenting Principles


Parenting isn’t easy. My dad often told me that the toughest job I would ever have would be to be a parent. It is a task we will be studying and re-evaluating the rest of our lives. Just when we think we have mastered a certain aspect of parenting, our kids throw us a curve. In fact, children have a way of throwing us curves on a daily basis!

It is freeing to me to think that there is not a list of “Seventeen Things You Must do to be a Perfect Parent and Have Your Children Turn Out Well.” Even if someone were to write such a book, our children wouldn’t read it! So, they won’t know how they are supposed to respond when their father or mother does point number seven or point number fourteen!

Of course, there are principles of parenting that God revealed thousands of years ago in his Word and we can read and apply today. Good parenting involves familiarizing ourselves with these principles and applying them as best we can in our family context. Principles of parenting offers freedom for the parent to respond to the need of each child within the framework of God’s will. A list of seventeen or any other number of rules for perfect parenting is not really parenting; it is manipulation. Parenting is a relationship built on trust; manipulation undermines that trust and foils relationship.

Please check back to read more because in upcoming weeks I will discuss the following principles for parenting:

1) Balancing love and control
2) Using action instead of anger in disciplining.
3) Disciplining with consistency, firmness and love.
4) Patience
5) Kindness
6) Teach-Discipline
7) Family bonding (Prov. 4)
8) Teaching responsibility

Warren Baldwin

Note: Thanks to everyone who inquired about our daughter, Kristin. She had 3 surgeries in 5 weeks (two of them major), and spent 18 of 30 days in the hospital. She missed her last 6 weeks of school, except for 3 days when she got to attend for 1/2 of the day. Still, she was able to walk at in the ceremony and still graduated with high honors. God is good! Thank you all. WB

Friday, June 3, 2011

This Side of Eden

Before Adam and Even were cast out of Eden . . .
Before they hid from God in fear . . .
Before they took hold of the forbidden fruit . . .
Before they changed the cosmos with their choice . . .

 . . . The two of them must have enjoyed some amazing walks together.

Adam must have been thrilled to share the beauty of the garden with Eve.

Taking her by the hand, Adam must have delighted in showing Eve the Pishon River as it twisted through the garden, rushing past gold-filled land (Genesis 2:11).

I wonder if Eve smiled as Adam explained to her the names he had given each animal.

Time together. Just the two of them. And then to have their Creator join them at times, talking about their day, enjoying new discoveries in the garden.

Years later, I wonder how often Adam and Eve reminisced about the days they shared in Eden.

Did they tell their boys stories of what it was like there?

Or were they too busy toiling the land, working for the food they needed from the next harvest?

Had the sin that separated them from their early days also distanced them from each other?

None of us have perfect memories of a time gone past, for we are all on this side of Eden. But most of us can remember our early courtship, a time filled with sweet wondering and long walks. How often do we pause from the rush of daily toiling? How often do we choose stillness and quietude, taking the time to be together? It never happens on its own. It takes intentionality. Purpose.

For our first date, just the two of us, Jeff took me hiking on a trail just north of Pasadena. For Los Angeles County, it's surprisingly beautiful there, tucked away beyond the city, nestled against the foothills. The wooded path - padded with soft earth and draped with evergreen on each side - leads to a waterfall. The hush of the water calls from a distance.

Sometimes I think about that waterfall. I think about the hike. The rocks we balanced across. The feet we dangled in chilled water.

It's been more than a decade now. More than. We've been back a couple of times. Once with a baby wrapped snug against his chest. The sound of bees nearby made us flee. Such walks were no longer as easy as they once were.

But I have been thinking about that hike lately. I'd like to see it again. Is it the same as I remember?

For our marriage, and for any marriage, I think it's important to trace those early steps, to remember. And most importantly of all, to invite our Creator to walk with us, both there and then, and here and now.

What was your first date?