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At a time when every aspect of our lives on every day highlights differences and division, Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy have written a powerful book, Unified, which I think is a “must read” for all of us. These two South Carolinians provide an intimate glimpse into their unlikely friendship that transcends differences and points to a better framework upon which to build as individuals and a nation. Their good sense, wisdom, and discernment look at the fundamentals of relationship as the source of hope and strength for understanding and reconciliation.


They both arrived as freshmen Congressmen from South Carolina in the chaotic and conflicted swirl of Washington DC. They each had a learning curve ahead in their new roles and began to have dinner together with several others as a way to navigate this journey. As demands impacted the group, it soon became only Tim and Trey meeting for dinner.


Those dinners together soon became an intentional regular part of most days for them. It was a time of purposefully getting to know each other beyond their differences, to utilize that knowledge to broaden each other’s perspectives, and to each become better as a result. They started with intentionally looking for common ground between them. How rare it is for that to happen when in the 24/7 news cycle we are continually bombarded with, we have no common ground from which to start.


Forged out of that relational building come many powerful truths expressed in their book from which everyone can grow and benefit.


“…politics is not going to change the nation. We will change the nation only by changing the condition of the human heart. And that can only happen through love. True friendship is born out of acceptance and unconditional love – a love that is consistent and intentional.”


 “Unusual friendships are born of many differences: class, religion, background, education, or any number of other things. Trey and I started with a lot in common, as two introverted South Carolinians with a passion for justice, shared political views, a spiritual prism to inform our conduct, and a love for both the Cowboys and the Gamecocks. Unlikely friendships are easy when things are going well. But eventually you will be tested by some sort of conflict that strikes the fault line of your differences – the part of your friendship that makes it unlikely.”


One of the core principles that guided Tim and Trey’s growing relationship came from putting into practice a core principle from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:


 “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


The passion of the two authors became a common purpose of reconciliation that requires relationship, fairness, and self-awareness. In synthesizing their understanding one of the things that became clear was this:


“When you begin to look at people as individuals, when you listen to what they say and seek to understand where they’re coming from, you begin to realize we’re all different from the rest.”


 Their passion and purpose extend beyond words into various forums and programs to invite others into what they have discovered.


At the close of the book the reader can join the challenge by participating in a program entitled The Friendship Challenge that includes videos and a six-week plan for cultivating reconciliation in your own community.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.







Looking for Fingerprints




Our weeks are often a mixture of assorted tasks and projects sprinkled with time with family and friends and seasoned with God’s grace. In the midst of the week, we may often not sense a clear revelation of God’s plan or purpose as we go about doing those things right in front of us.


Sometimes we miss it because we are not looking for it.



Sometimes we miss it because it is right in front of us and our eyes skip right over it.


Sometimes we miss it because the internal chatter that goes on nearly continuously has distracted us from subtle ways He is speaking or moving.


Sometimes we miss it because it is not the message or response we desire.


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Other times we see the Lord’s hand so clearly, it is like rays of sun piercing through the clouds and grabbing our attention and awe. We are clear on His purpose and His intervention with us is as obvious as the HOLLYWOOD sign on the California hillside that most of us would recognize.


Recently I had a mishmash week where different parts of my life and world seemed to collide and left me feeling less steady without any particular reason. I could chalk it up to several nights of restless sleep or travel in a car for ten hours. If I wanted to go down rabbit trails looking for reasons, I could do that but it would still not change the sense of being less oriented.


Perhaps it was just the reality of life, a life far from Eden where I was intended to live.


If I turn my reflections to the many trips to the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta, Canada, the scene changes. These are places I love because I seem to sense the Lord’s presence in the midst of His creation so very clearly.


In those places the magnificence of the mountain ranges, peak upon peak frosted with PPP 044snow, the gurgling sound of streams racing over rocks, and the stunning teal shades of glacial lakes cannot help but humble me as I view what surrounds me. The rocky trails through cedars, aspens, fir, spruce, and narrow leaf cottonwood arouse my senses with fragrance and symmetry that I somehow miss as I walk in my neighborhood or gaze at the trees in my backyard. All of these things are giving me the BIG HD picture and surround sound experience.


These trips have also illuminated something else. As I have looked through the lens of my camera, I have discovered small splashes of color tucked into sandy arid soil and mountain crevasses. These varying hues from small flowers of assorted shades and types are not always noticed or seen when so many large things capture my attention.


Yet, these are the very things that bring a smile to my face as they show the paradox of creation in the midst of the granite peaks surrounding me. They remind me to watch for small things, small surprises and delights planted throughout this world.



My children used to tease me about stopping so often to take yet another flower picture, trying to capture something of the wonder I felt as I discovered it. I seemed to be the catalyst for slowing the pace on the trail, as I would glimpse a columbine, wild strawberry, lupine or berry that I could not recognize.


Barbara Brown Taylor brought these reflections into sharper focus as she wrote these words in Gospel Medicine,


 “Sometimes the work of God’s hand is so evident that you can see it a mile away and sometimes you have to dust for fingerprints.”


Be looking for Him this week.  He’s there.  He’s here.


Discover Him.  He wants you to know Him.


You may find Him in places you would never expect.


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No Matter What Vocation


What’s your vocation?

There was a time when it was common for someone to study, train, or apprentice to follow a line of work and continue in that same vocation for the rest of his or her life. That still exists, but it has become less unusual that a person may have various vocations throughout his or her lifetime than it once was.

I have been blessed to be one of those with more than one vocation in the course of my adult-audience-broadcast-159400life. It wasn’t my long-term plan or goal, but it developed over time as I grew, came to know myself better, expanded my interests and education, and walked through doors the Lord opened for me.

I think now that I might have been bored if I had always done the same thing. I tend to give all I am to whatever I pursue including all the creativity that fuels my personality. Once I master one set of challenges, I seem to be open to learn or explore something new.

Each thing I have done was something the Lord used to awaken more of His design for me. He also used one thing to build upon and prepare for the next. And He still isn’t really done even though I officially retired almost four years ago.

armed-army-battle-894655Adult life began with me as a U.S. Marine Corps officer’s wife and then a stay-at-home mom. While I was doing those things, I wrote some articles for our small country church newsletter. That led to a woman at our church opening the door for me to work as a “stringer” for a local newspaper in a neighboring county writing news items and feature stories from the comfort of my own home. I loved it!

My spiritual life was growing during that time as well and that opened a path to serve in leadership of a Christian women’s ministry for several years. Those years exposed me to high mountaintops and major challenges of what it means to be heavily involved in ministry with a lot of other flawed humans like me.

The next stop on my timeline was with our local public school system that called me and asked me about a tutoring position that would match my children’s school schedules. (My college degrees were in the area of education.) This was quite a shift from heavy adult-auto-automobile-401796ministry responsibilities, but how God used it  for two years was a great adventure. It opened a path to 13 years as a junior high special education teacher and that was the lastthing I had planned to do even though I was educated to do just that.

While all these transitions were happening, transitions in the spiritual life of both my husband and me were changing and evolving. Together we were actively working with National Marriage Encounter and becoming lay counselors at our church. These areas were ones where my heart burned with a desire to know more. As I considered some of the persons I was meeting as a lay counselor, I knew I needed far more equipping than lay counselor training. That led to entrance into graduate school on a part-time basis during the time I was teaching full-time.

Yikes!!  Did I mention I was still a wife and mother?

When you have tenure as a teacher, you don’t usually walk away from that position stock-photo-danger-flame-fire-occupation-female-worker-hot-flames-firefighter-f2b997c1-dc56-4a03-b6f6-23ca2cadfb15(especially when you live just 3 miles from where you teach). But that is what I did!  In mid-life I became a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Independent Marriage and Family Therapist and entered a Christian private practice. Yes, there was a pay cut and all those nice retirement and insurance benefits went away also, but I felt the Lord continuing to draw me forward.

How did I know? One reason was that from the very beginning of my adult life I never applied for any of these positions or opportunities; someone saw some interest, ability, or passion in me and asked me. That is how He happened to lead me. I guess He saw how hard it was for me to believe in myself or what I could do through Him.

After ten years in private practice, I was asked to join our church staff to offer clinical bar-barista-business-887827counseling services and to develop an array of ministries to equip and help laymen develop and grow. I was blessed to do that for another 13 years and when I retired I thought that was the last stop. But the Lord had more in mind. Sounds just like Him, right?

That love of writing that had been with me since childhood was not forgotten by the Lord and three years ago He led me to begin my website and start writing and sharing my photography.

It can be easy to compare vocations. As believers we can have a distorted view of what ministry is and isn’t because we miss how the Lord views this. We also miss how He uses each thing He gives us to do to equip us for what’s next.

arms-care-check-905874A brief look at the disciples Jesus gathered around Him shows us He chose men from more than one vocation even though most of them were fishermen.

As I was reading in John 21, I noticed the story of Peter and some of the other disciples going to fish after Jesus had been resurrected and told them to meet Him in Galilee. Sometimes they get a lot of criticism for that (fishing again), but perhaps we are shortsighted based on the note on this I read in my study Bible:

“Whatever our vocation, Jesus meets us there, but He doesn’t leave what we do untouched. Fishers of fish are also called to be fishers of men, and both require Jesus. Peter hauled 153 fish ashore only because Jesus filled the nets. Peter would see 3,000 conversions on the day of Pentecost only because Jesus is filling his church.”


Each of us may choose a vocation or have one chosen for us because it seems to fit for us, but we must never underestimate what the Lord has in mind in that choice or the ones He will open after that first one.

He just wants us to follow Him!



What Apple Trees Can Teach Us




Biting into a crisp juicy apple is one of life’s joys I think. That is not to minimize any other type of fruit because I really like them all, but an apple can be so satisfying.


For all but about a year of my life I have been blessed to have apple trees not farther than six miles from where I live. The farm I grew up on had a variety of fruit trees including apples in the orchard that took up one corner of the farm. We also had a wonderful orchard six miles from us where we could also pick or buy apples to add to the variety we grew. That apple orchard is still about six miles away.


We are blessed in the United States to find a choice of apples in nearly any grocery store we enter. Most are polished and inviting and I have at times had one of those, but they cannot compare with the ones grown on our own trees or at the nearby orchard. Those are just picked or recently so and no one has polished them to make them more enticing.


abundance-apples-blur-349730I am fascinated by how many varieties there are of anything God created or spoke into existence. When I consider ALL that He created that I know little or nothing about, my mind begins to reel.


Take apple trees as an example. Did you know there are about 7,500 different kinds of apples in the world?  Amazing! 


When I go to my orchard I always go to the apple room where there are large wooden boxes filled with apples. Each wooden box contains a different variety of apple. I know I will usually find as many as 10 different varieties there from which to choose and signs let me know which ones are best for cooking, eating, or baking. In our area the greatest number of varieties will be found in early fall when most of the apples will be ripe and picked.


The smell in the apple room is a delight. The wooden boxes show off a variety of colors from the deep green of a Granny Smith apple to the deep red of a Crimson Crisp and apple-food-fruit-102104everything in between. I can select a size of bag that fits what I want to buy and begin filling it with one or many different kinds of apples. Best of all, the signs in the apple room invite me to taste any apple I choose. (I never want to be in a hurry when I visit the orchard because I hope to sample more than one kind of apple while I am there!)


According to history the Romans brought apple trees to England and it was the colonists who came to the United States who brought them here. Legend has it that John Chapman, often known as Johnny Appleseed, was the one who started planting apple trees moving west across the United States.


The problem is that if you plant an apple seed, you can’t be sure of what kind of apple tree you may get due to the genetic make-up of the seed. That probably doesn’t surprise you when you consider the variety of genes that make up you that could have resulted in any number of alterations of who you are. Your family may all be tall and yet you are short because somewhere in the genes there was someone who wasn’t tall.


apple-tree-apples-colorful-54629Because we started enjoying some apples more than others and wanted the same kind of trees to assure that kind of apple, trees were not planted by seed. Instead whatever kind of apple you wanted more of involved cutting a branch from that tree and grafting it onto another tree. That allowed you to predict the kind of apple you would get and allowed orchard growers to provide apples of every taste and use we might desire eventually. It also led to the development of an increasing number of varieties. This year a new variety was unveiled at my orchard and it is called Ever Crisp. It is delicious and one special thing about this variety is that it can be stored refrigerated for eight months.


I am the daughter of a farmer, but am not a farmer. Even so I cannot help but reflect on how apple trees point to the significance of being grafted for those of us who are Christians.


Paul talks about this in Romans 11: 11-31 where he references olive trees. He makes clear that you and I were the wild olive shoots and broken off and grafted into the nourishing root of the cultivated olive tree. Symbolically it is key to recall when Noah sent a dove out of the ark when the rains stopped. It finally returned with an olive leaf in its mouth. It was included in the riches of the land the spies sent out by Moses discovered. Israel has been called an olive tree as well.


Another perspective is to consider how Ruth was grafted into Israel when she refused to leave Naomi when they returned to Bethlehem and became a part of the lineage of Jesus. One might argue that Rahab was grafted in as well if we use that context.


Consider what grafting should demonstrate even though each of us may be different. We should resemble what we have been grafted into and a consistency across the body of believers should be evident. Perhaps the litmus test is how we love the Lord and love one another. If so, the graft will have taken and the world will never be the same.


G.K. Chesterton points to our purpose in his words below:












Sorting, Labeling, Categorizing




When my children were toddlers, we had a variety of toys and games, which required them to learn to sort and place things into categories based on size, shape, colors, or types of objects. It was a great learning activity that would help prepare them for more formal education a few years later.


My six grandchildren enjoyed updated versions of similar toys and games and it was fun stock-photo-laundry-clean-clothes-baskets-wash-kids-chores-sorting-laundry-day-ec84dde9-ae04-4619-8396-277cebbdd306to see them learn. Of course those same skills came into play when rooms needed to be picked up and clothes and toys put where they belonged.


I attended a conference that gave me new insight into this skill we all learn in one way or another at a very early age. It has been a month since the conference and I am still reaping nuggets from the plenary address by Dr. Diane Langberg.


You see, we continue to use those early childhood skills throughout our lifetime. How much we utilize them for practical purposes will often depend on our jobs, how much order we prefer in our surroundings, and what solutions our daily life might ask us to solve. There is no question the skills are a valuable tool long after we leave school.


I am not a fanatic when it comes to organization, but my closets, drawers, and cupboards stock-photo-vintage-organization-buttons-cleaning-organizing-sorting-9051000a-5709-43b2-8008-e1c22e6bc1b6 (1)would likely demonstrate a preference for order and structure.


There is another side to this skill we learn, however.


We also categorize other people and label them.


The challenge when we apply a label or a category to a person or a group of people is that we fall prey to divisiveness. That divisiveness, even when we are looking at true categories, can destroy us as well as those around us. This isn’t something new. There is a subtle power connected with it, however, that can seduce us into believing something that contradicts our tenets of faith and belief as Christians.


Adolf Hitler used labels and seduced a people to follow him. Initially, he said things many wanted to hear about the greatness of a nation defeated from the previous world war.


It happened when Hitler placed gypsies, Jews, the disabled, and others into categories he deemed to be a subset of humanity that needed to be destroyed so as not to harm his concept of a pure Germanic race. In doing so, he dehumanized millions of people and yet was so skillful in his seduction that the people of Germany did not realize what they were signing onto and what would result.


When we label and categorize people, we dehumanize. When we disagree, we must never dehumanize another person. When we do so, we are not Christ-like and totally secular, ungodly.


Labeling, putting into categories, and dehumanizing are not new. It is likely as old as mankind.


It was present when Jesus walked the earth.


You see evidences in the gospels. There were tax collectors, Sadducees, Pharisees, Samaritans, slaves, and more. Were they true categories at the time? Yes, but they were also used as in Hitler’s day to dehumanize and degrade anyone not in his or her own category.


If you listen carefully, you hear it today in the secular world as well as the church. It turns us into an “us and them” polarization and divides us over and over again and mars evidence of being Christlike. It shows itself as pride, self-righteousness, and more.


We see it when a homeless person slips into the back of our church. It shows up when we see a woman we believe looks like a prostitute, but those are only the more obvious ones. You see, we measure others by ourselves, so if the person doesn’t look like us, talk like us, dress like us, take communion like we do, or baptize as we do, we label them and the body tears apart just a little bit more.


Jesus crossed into our categories or we would have been dismissed. We were the Gentiles, not welcome in the synagogues of the day. He crossed categories when He spoke to women, slaves, tax collectors, a centurion, Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, a wee man in a tree, fishermen, and more. Jesus, God made flesh, crossed every category. He looked at the heart of the person. He gave dignity to those who had been dehumanized. He did not fit in with the secular world or the religious world.


He has left us here in His stead, to occupy until He comes.


We are citizens of His Kingdom, the real undocumented immigrants of this world, but while here serving citizens here no matter their categories.


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