Living God’s best life

Ever wonder if you are receiving God’s best? It’s trendy to talk about “living your best life.” We all want the best life. But what about living God’s best life for you? Where does it start? One of my favorite stories is the romance of Isaac and Rebekah. Told in Genesis 24, Isaac’s father, Abraham, wanted to ensure his son found the best possible wife. So he loaded some camels and sent a servant on a journey to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac. There, the servant met a girl named Rebekah, who was from Abraham’s family. She agreed to be Isaac’s bride.

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Sharing the love

My first Valentine’s Day with a sweetheart looked like it was going to be a lonely one. I was 18 and living in a dorm at a Rhode Island Bible school. Over the course of the day, girls walked down the hall, giggling as they clutched a card or flowers or box of chocolates. But I had nothing. My boyfriend, Dana, and I had been dating for a year, but he was going to school in New York. It seemed he’d forgotten all about me. Later that long afternoon, someone knocked on my door. A delivery person was waiting outside. And there was a lovely bouquet of roses from Dana!

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Making Marriage Beautiful

Making Marriage Beautiful

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many sweethearts – or would-be sweethearts – are making plans for how to express their love. The holiday is also one of the most popular days for becoming engaged. But what happens after the chocolates have been devoured and the roses have wilted? Or what if, after years or decades of being together, you’re just not feeling it anymore? Plenty of marriage books offer activities and tips that promise to help you reconnect.

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Are your goals big enough?

If you are pursuing a goal, you have likely been tempted to quit. Maybe it is excising more, eating healthier, saving money, or spending more time with your family. My mother’s goal was to help translate the Bible into a language in which it has not yet been published. Tucked among the papers on her desk when she passed away was a verse from Scripture. Written in capitals, it said, “BE STRONG + DO NOT GIVE UP – FOR YOUR WORK WILL BE REWARDED,” 2 Chronicles 15:7.

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It’s time to pray for our country

It’s time to pray for our country

On the swearing in of a new president, how should we pray? When I was growing up on an Oregon farm, my hippie mom was one of the only parents I knew at our rural church who’d voted for Jimmy Carter instead of Ronald Reagan. That could have created a split, but we continued sitting in the same pews and singing the same songs as before the divisive 1980 election. Mom didn’t sniff out which businesses had supported which candidate or pull us out of our church-supported school. She got up the same as every other morning, pulled on her rubber boots and went about the work that needed to be done, feeding our sheep and gathering the morning eggs.

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Facing a difficult journey?

Lately, I’ve been reading through the beginning of the Old Testament, an unexpected source of comfort and inspiration if you are walking through a difficult phase or journey. What could be harder than an entire civilization packing up their homes and families and herds to cross a perilous wilderness? On a good day, I have enough trouble packing up my kids to catch the school bus. Snacks? McDonald’s money for away basketball games? Who has time? And we are not usually being pursued by an angry army in chariots.

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This new year, resolve not to quit

If your heart has not been pulverized by sorrow, disappointment and injustice by the time you reach midlife, you are either sorely disconnected or extremely lucky. During the first week of this new year, I find myself wanting to lay my head down and weep at the hardships that encompass from within and without. I have much to be thankful for – a safe home, the love of my family and a few close friends, opportunities to pursue meaningful work. But along the way, the losses and regrets and awareness of my own limitations have snowballed to such a degree that the utter weight and size of my sadness threatens to bury me.

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Book Review: The Year of Small Things

There’s something about the start of a new year that beckons us to set goals. According to the website History.com, the custom of setting New Year’s resolutions began in ancient Babylon 4,000 years ago. Each March people celebrated a 12-day religious festival and made promises to their gods. Those who kept them were assured favor in the coming year. The New Year offers an opportunity to reflect on what we’d like to change. In the West, often it’s our health habits. But what if instead of measuring our midriffs and kicking off another diet, we measured our lifestyle? That’s the prospect authors Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger offer in their book, “The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us” (Brazos Press, 2017).

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Advent, wk. 5: True Worship

As a college student studying in Jerusalem, I was privileged to spend one rainy and cold Christmas wandering around Bethlehem with my mother. In the days before a concrete wall divided Israel from the West Bank, this majority Muslim city about six miles south of Jerusalem was an easy fifteen minute taxi or sherut ride from our school. Arab shopkeepers, with their open-sided kiosks lining the streets, sold strings of Christmas lights along with olivewood nativities and traditional sweets. With a flock of other worshipers, we knelt on the stone floor near the shrouded hollow in the Church of the Nativity where Christ is traditionally believed to have been born.

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Advent, week 4: Take time to contemplate

We decorated for Christmas last week on the first anniversary of buying our home. At this time last year, we were packing boxes in one house and frantically hammering down floors and painting walls in another. Rarely are the holidays Hallmark perfect. Congested stores, empty wallets, strained relationships, difficult family situations and unmet expectations have a way of crowding out the joy. That is why it is so important, during this third week of Advent, to take time to contemplate.

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Advent, week 3: Sharing the good news

Is there anything much sweeter than a baby announcement? Who doesn’t love receiving a card in the mail with the pucker-faced picture of a relative or friend’s new arrival? I enjoy posting such proclamations on the fridge, eager to share the good news with any unsuspecting visitors who may walk through my door. So it was when a baby announcement reached a Judean hillside long ago. Only, this message didn’t arrive via a rural mail carrier. It arrived with an eruption of light via a heavenly angel. Friends and relatives weren’t the recipients, but a band of frightened, uneducated shepherds watching over their flocks.

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Advent, week 2: Radical Hospitality

One of my favorite Christmas memories is also one of my hardest. Suffering with cancer, my mom lived four hours away from our home in Maine. That winter and fall I drove back and forth twice a month. It would have been impossible without the kindness of strangers. You see, my mom lived in a cottage at the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association, a historic Christian community in Connecticut. Her neighbors, who were away, offered my family the free use of their house.

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Advent, week 1: An intentional Christmas

The first Christmas toy catalog arrived in my mailbox one week before Halloween. Ugh, I thought. Really? I glanced through its glossy pages not to jumpstart my holiday shopping but to confirm precisely what it is I am working to avoid. Excess spending. Excess waste. Excess stress. Each year I strive to be intentional about how our family celebrates Christmas. Often my plans go awry and I go on a last-minute spending blitz, worried that my husband and I haven’t done enough.

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Surviving post-election angst

I had a post-election meltdown this week. Overwhelmed by the rage and fear and blame being fired like bullets on Facebook, I accidently ‘unfriended’ people who I deeply care about in an effort to make the name-calling go away. ‘Accidently’ because I thought I could see their profiles again once the angry rhetoric quieted down. But the next day, poof, a couple hundred people had completely disappeared from my contacts. By acting in haste without realizing the consequences, I ended up injuring myself and others.

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Every day is a day to vote

For months – OK, years – I watched the tightly wound rows of two braided throw rugs pull apart. One under the kitchen sink. One by the back door. Each time someone stepped on them, the tears grew longer. And each time I tossed the rugs in the washing machine, I silently swore I’d stitch the rows back together. But I kept putting it off. By now the tears were so large that my favorite rug, shaped like a heart, was unravelling from the inside out, threatening to come apart in two pieces. Finally I could stand it no longer.

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Who owns your spiritual house?

My family of seven lives in a small house, which gets messy fast. Especially when the chickens decide it is their house too.

On a recent morning I’d spent a couple of hours tidying up while my husband, Dana, and older kids were at work and school. I had just finished reading to our younger boys. Everything was beginning to look the way I like – neat and orderly – when I had the brilliant idea to paint the shutters that Dana had built for my birthday

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When your patience wears thin

There’s much to say about the similarities between raising children and chickens. Both make a mess. Both require firm boundaries (apologies to the neighbors with the wild-bird feeder that my hens find so alluring). And both have a seemingly endless appetite and propensity to excrete smelly droppings.

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Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms

Living on Maine’s coast for most of my life, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m no sailor. And the last time I caught a fish, I was 10. But I am a reader and an occasional doubter. So I was intrigued to read, “Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas,” by Alaskan author and fisherwoman Leslie Leyland Fields (2016 NAVPRESS). Fields and her family live on Harvester Island, a rugged, beautiful place full of adventure, deep isolation, and danger. Throughout the fishing season, they cross the waters in boats, casting nets in hope that what they catch will sustain them.

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A better way to pray

“Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” my first-grader recently asked. It’s a question I’ve heard from my children before. A decade ago, when our 17-year-old son, Gabriel, was also in first grade, he faithfully asked God to help his little sister, Ruth, who had cerebral palsy, to walk and talk. I did too. Day after day, it was crushingly painful to see those prayers seemingly go unanswered, and I struggled with what to say.

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Living to help others

While listening to the radio, I recently caught a story on NPR that made me weep, an all-too-common occurrence in these days of troubling news. But this story stayed with me because of the heroism involved and the powerful message.

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