Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Today was the perfect day to use up the last of the Thanksgiving dressing. As it is the end of the month, that meant the cupboards were looking pretty bare here at Graceland so a hearty meal made of leftovers was just what the cooking doctor ordered.

PB300297 Skillet shot best

Following the recipe that I mentioned several posts back (click here if you want the recipe: Post-Thanksgiving Breakfast Casserole) I cooked up a scrumptious, hot breakfast

PB300300 Merry and Casserole

All the kids liked it as evidenced by the fact that the skillet was left empty.

I'm thinking I might need to make stuffing more often than just at Thanksgiving simply so that we can eat this more than once a year!

Any of you have a recipe out there using leftovers that is so good, you wish you had that leftover more often?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I thought I'd use today as a gathering of various bits and pieces. Lots of things rattling around in my brain, and in my life, but I'm not up to writing a full blog post about any of them all on their own today.

So here goes:

*Next week my 2nd born son turns 13. Hard to believe. But yep, he does. That will give us 4 teenagers living under our roof. Four. F. O. U. R. Four. Wow.

*Thanks for all of you who are praying about the decision I'm making. I'm feeling fairly confident that I'm going to go ahead with my crazy scheme as it is seeming more and more like it is actually a God-inspired scheme, and those are always the best. If you missed the prayer request, here's the link:

Van Rental Numbers Covered

*We're still raising money for our upcoming trip to Swaziland. If you've been wanting to help but didn't know how, there are lots of ways. You can donate to our rent-a-van fund. Each day we are there we'll need a van at $100 a day. We are looking for sponsors to cover thirteen days as a fellow Bheveni Carepoint supporter has already committed to day 1. We also would love to have folks hold fundraisers on our behalf, have us come speak to their group and take up a love offering, or donate items or services for us to auction off or sell.

*Has your family been looking for a way to make Christmas more meaningful this year? Children's HopeChest, the organization that we support Swaziland ministries through, has a simple yet powerful way that you can make a difference in the lives of children this year and include others as well:

*And let's not forget to pray for the missionaries during this holiday season. Most of them absolutely love what they do but it can still be very hard to be so far away from family and friends back in the States during Christmas. It isn't too late to mail them a Christmas card, send them an online gift certificate, set up a Skype date, or post Facebook greetings. Believe me, when I lived in Swaziland, packages and cards from back home were so cherished. I hung every single card up on my wall and a package was like winning the sweepstakes. Satan works hard at discouraging missionaries. Let's do our part to love and encourage them this month.

And with that, I'll bid you adieu til next time!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Will y'all please pray for me? I'm considering doing something pretty crazy...

P9220824 Crazy Edit

...something that would help me raise money for orphan care and missions in Swaziland as well as help me continue to work towards my goal of living a more active and healthier life.

The problem is, the thing I'm considering would conflict with my college homecoming weekend. And anyone who knows me knows that I love my alma mater and the time spent there every spring with my college sisters is a highlight of my year.

So anyway, pray that if I am truly supposed to participate in this absolutely insane, shocked-my-husband-that-I'd-even-consider-doing-it event that I'll know it for sure.

To be honest, it is so out of character for me, that I'm suspecting pretty strongly that it IS something I'm supposed to be doing for the Lord and His little ones.

Oh well...He never promised this walk of faith would be without sacrifice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


There is a phrase out there that folks often say as an encouragement to others when they are going through a hard time. Well meaning friends or family will say, "don't worry --- God never gives you more than you can handle".

I hate to break it to you if you think this is true, but this statement is a lie. Okay, it is actually a half-truth, but without the whole truth, it is still false. The reality is that God often gives us more than we can handle.


So we'll go running to Him.

God often allows very difficult things to happen in our lives. Sometimes He actually leads us from the easy to the hard. Our loving Father leads us to someplace tougher than we ever imagined.

So is the case with the Peterson Family in Swaziland. Here's what Jenifer shared recently on their ministry website:

Being a missionary is kind of like's awesome, but nobody tells you how much it hurts!!

Is it worth it? Of course!

Do you think so at the time??

Well, the jury is still out on that one. Our 'baby' is still not talking or walking or doing any cool tricks! We are still at the early stages of seeing fruit. We have faith that the Lord is in this work and that there WILL be fruit. There are even days where we see clear evidence that seeds are germinating... Spring IS coming!! But right's kind of a struggle. Even though the air is hot and humid, winter seems to abound. We are in that transition time where you know you are onto something good but haven't quite got there yet. Too late to turn around and throw in the towel, but too early to start sending up fireworks and having a grand celebration!

Sometimes we experience things and have feelings that seem too raw...too caustic to share. This is right on the edge of one of those things. Hopefully there is grace enough on your end to glean from it what is valuable and throw away the rest!

In all of this, we KNOW God is good...He is still on the throne and He is faithful!

It is our own weakness, our own pathetic human nature that is causing us to stumble.

There have been enough obstacles to make us question if we are capable of finishing what God has called us to accomplish.

The easy answer to that?

NO!! A resounding NO!! WE are NOT capable...

But He is...

He is...

...He WILL!

Nobody told us this...but that doesn't matter!

Actually, it does is important that nobody told us this...

Because if we HAD known...then what?

Would we give it all?

Will you?

What hard thing is He calling you to do right now?

Stay in a struggling marriage? Don't quit a frustrating job? Keep serving in a difficult ministry? Go back to school to pursue that unfinished degree? Go on that mission trip despite the lack of money? Homeschool your special needs child?

What hard thing has beset you and your loved ones at this time?

Cancer? Chronic illness? Unemployment? Theft? Natural disaster? Unfounded accusations? Church hurt? Bankruptcy?

Turn to God and cling to His promises.

The Bible has prepared us to expect bad things in this world. But it has also promised us that when we love and follow Him, He will never leave us or forsake us. He will give us the peace that passes all understanding. He will send His Holy Spirit comforter and counselor to us. He will give us wisdom when we ask Him. When we seek first His kindgom and His righteousness, He will give us what He knows we need. He will give us a deeper love and intimacy than we could have ever imagined. And He will work all things for our good and His glory.

Let those soak in. Believe them. Even ask Him to help you believe them.

Because those are the whole-truths of encouragement that He speaks to us, He promises us, in difficult times. And God never, ever breaks His word.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


P2010340 Narrow Way

"When God's finger points, God's hand will open the door."

---Clarence Jones

Friday, November 25, 2011


...and all through the house, not a mommy creature was stirring, but the daddy's sure were!

As I slept nestled in my comfy, warm, bed and my sister-in-law rested in Betsie's attic bedroom, the men were already up and about. Jim was brewing coffee and already doing chores about the farm. My brother Edward was making a veritable breakfast banquet of sausage and pancakes adorned with fruit and powdered sugar.

The kids were thrilled with the special treat and the moms were thrilled with the extra sleep.

All in all, a very nice start for the day that officially kicks off the Christmas here at Graceland. Let the carol playing begin!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As we sat around the Thanksgiving table today, my family, my brother's family, and my mom, we all took turns telling what we were the most thankful for. Some of it was silly, some of it was more serious. Some of it was seriously silly. When I came time for me to tell what I was thankful for, I felt like I didn't even know where to start. I have so very much to be grateful for.

I went on and on for a bit, I am a talkative extrovert after all, but the highlights include a harworking, always-there-for-me husband, all my children, the family members who came to share the day with us, the chance to go to Thailand, and our upcoming trip to Swaziland.

I had the kids tell me again what they were thankful for so I could share it here at Graceland. Here are their gratitude lists:

10 year old LG: I'm thankful for icecream, cats, David, Lizzie, friends and family, bedding, shelter, bed, electronics, my hair, nature, art, and my toys.

12 year old Patrick: I'm thankful for Laura. I'm thankful for technology. Not technolology.

14 year old David: I'm thankful for guitars.

18 year old Anna: I'm thankful for getting accepted into my college, our upcoming missions trip to Africa and France, and our military --- particularly the Navy Seals.

6 year old M: I am thankful for Jesus and Father God. I'm thankful for Mommy and Daddy. I'm thankful for my brothers and sisters. I'm thankful for David. And I am thankful for Betsie. And I'm thankful for my mom. And I am thankful, last but not least, for horses. And Laura. And I'm thankful for Swaziland.

8 year old T: I am thankful for Betsie. And I am thankful for video games. And I am thankful for a Hot Wheels set. I'm thankful for Super Mario Galaxy 2. I'm thankful for Super Mario Galaxy. I'm thankful for Ice Age 1, 2, 3, and for the Christmas Special. And, I'm thankful for my friends and family. That counts as my relatives. And I'm thankful for my Wii and my computer and my notebook and food and water and drinks and soda and malts and milkshakes and I'm thankful for me.....AND GOD! And last but not least, the Pilgrims who sailed to America. Done!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Sometimes all it takes is gaining a little perspective.

So was the case with my friend Betty.

Like many American moms, she's been busily making plans for Thanksgiving Day and doing lots of preparation, including the running of errands.

Betty's husband works for a company that gives turkeys to all of the employees every Thanksgiving. Originally, she was going to go pick it up from the Honeybaked Ham store today but decided to make the drive to the northern part of our metro area yesterday. When she got there, hoping to get a smoked turkey, she found a store that was insanely crowded which meant a 30 to 45 minute wait plus only had roasted turkeys left, no smoked ones.

Well, I'll let Betty tell you the rest of the story:

As soon as I started to leave [the store], a flood hit Jackson. I had to walk a good ways in the down pour to my jeep. As I was walking, slowly so I wouldn't fall in my flip flops, I said "Lord, I am just thankful for this blessing of a $40.00 Turkey". Then the rain turned ice cold & I thought about complaining but the images of little ones walking miles to get a bowl of rice made me even more grateful!

Wow. Something as simple, yet powerful, as images of little ones having to walk long distances just to eat a simple meal really puts things in perspective.

As we sit around our Thanksgiving tables tomorrow, whether it is a perfectly decorated, good-enough-for-Martha-Stewart, solid-wood table or a rickety, kitchen dinette set graced with crayon-colored placemats, let's remember that our feasts are truly that. Feasts.

When you think about how the majority of the rest of the world lives, it puts it all in perspective. We are so richly blessed here in America. Even the homeless here can find places that will freely serve them turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings on this day because America truly is the land of bounty.

Let's not forget that.

It is too easy to dwell on the rain storm in our life and what we didn't get instead of focusing with gratitude on the roasted turkey and the waiting jeep.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Let's talk shoes. And no, I don't mean these shiny, glitzed-up, deck shoes, though they are very, um, interesting to say the least.

The shoes I'm talking can be dressy or casual, for men or women, for children who have the rest of their lives ahead of them or for some down-trodden folks who feel like their lives might not be worth living at all.

I'm talking about shoes given because of a dream. And in my particular case, I'm talking about very comfy black L.L. Bean mocs that were given to me for our upcoming trip overseas.

I love Facebook. It is one of my favorite resources for information. For that reason, when we found out that we were having a long lay-over in Paris on our way to Swaziland, I posted a status asking for input on comfy shoes to wear. I needed something that I could wear on the plane, slip off and on easily for security, could handle the winter streets of France, and still be used for our two weeks in Swaziland. One friend recommended the L.L. Bean crocs. I thanked her and expressed gratitude for all the others suggestions. I also mentioned at some point that I'd probably just have to make due with what I already owned because money was really tight and I just couldn't afford new shoes at this point.

After reading that, my friend of over two decades, sent me a private message saying she wanted to give me a pair and then later, told me why.

She wasn't just giving me the shoes because she was my friend. She was giving me the shoes for a very special reason. Here is her story:

"About 17 or 18 years ago, a friend of mine from high school, our graduating class' valedictorian, committed suicide. He was bipolar and had stopped taking his medicine after his fiancee broke off their engagement and became so depressed, he ended his life.

Over the years I've had many dreams about him. In one, he had grown a beard and was homeless, of all things. He was sitting on the ground leaning on the outside of our house and I saw him when I was coming home from work. He declined an invitation to come inside (it was cold) even with multiple pleas from both [my husband] and me. Then I noticed he was barefoot and I said to him that if he wouldn't come inside would he accept a pair of shoes and some food to take with him and he said he didn't want to be any more trouble, but just needed to rest. I went inside and got a pair of shoes [my husband] didn't wear very much and some socks. [My husband] made him some soup and put it in a thermos we used for travel and we went outside to give the supplies to him.

My friend asked me to promise that I'd give shoes to those that need them, even if they are the ones off my own feet, and I promised him that I would. I always donate shoes, sometimes even brand new ones that I find on sale. My friend was very spiritually religious and in the letter he left when he exited this life, he said he "would run across the River Jordan to greet everyone as we made our journey at the end of our lives".

There is no closure to losing a friend by suicide, only acceptance. This is my way of doing that. I bought your shoes for your spiritual journey because of a promise to a dead friend in a dream. In doing so, I honor his life and your path forward.

Hugs and love to you!! I will worry about you when you go to Africa because of the instability there, but if that is your path and the path for your children, I will do whatever I can to help you.

Let me know when you get them and I hope they fit like a glove!!!"

All of us have something we can give. Most of us want to do something to make a difference in this world but we don't always know what.

My friend had a dream that I believe was a gift from God. She is following that dream every time she blesses someone with a pair of shoes.

Some of you have allowed the circumstances, hurts, and struggles of this world to convince you that dreams are just that --- dreams. Some of you at one point thought you'd heal broken bodies, teach those walking in the darkness of ignorance, bring joyous smiles through your talents, or help solve problems that keep too many impoverished. Your dreams were amazing. They were so big and crazy fabulous.

Some of those dreams might have been just passing daydreams. I dreamed of being a fashion journalist for a New York magazine.

But some of those dreams are straight from the heart of God. The kind of dreams that bring love and light to this world are dreams that don't need to be forgotten.

What are the dreams telling you?

I dreamed for years of Africa and my beloved Swaziland. I dreamed of making a difference in the lives of precious orphans and vulnerable children. Now that dream is coming true. In January, I'll be making one more big step toward the dream of living once again in Africa. And as I wear these simple, black mocs, I'll think of the woman who gave them to me and her friend, who in a dream, told her to give shoes to those who need them. I'll walk and dance with a bit more spring in my step and smile even brighter as I remember that her dream is making my dream-come-true just a little bit easier.

But you know what? It is more than just the shoes. It is the love and support behind the shoes. And that kind of love and support makes the attainment and living out of the dream a whole lot easier.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Blogger has informed me that I've filled up my Picasa photo storage allotment. It is not allowing me to upload any more photos to my blog. To be honest, I don't think I can blog without pictures.

It would be like popcorn without salt.

Mamas without chocolate.

French fries without ketchup.

The 4th without fireworks.

And Africa without Swaziland!

I'm hoping I can fix this situation. There has to be a solution. I really don't want to have a mental and emotional breakdown two days before Thanksgiving.

AAAA-A-AH-HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I've vented, I'll stop freaking and get to work on solving the dilemma.

Til then, hope your world is full of amazing images, even if images from Graceland are not among what you're viewing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Seth Barnes is the founder of Adventures in Missions. He has merged unique gifts, skills, and talents with a passion for serving the Lord and loving the least and the lost in this world. He has turned over his life for the glory of God. In this blog post, Seth shares his heart and encourages all of us to find the call that God has for our lives.

My dad diagnoses diseases. He's a world class pathologist who gives the gift of life every day he goes to work in the lab in Kenya. Several years ago someone invented some software that allowed him to speak his diagnosis into a computer that automatically transcribes it. He no longer had to do the arduous work of writing it all down.

He was given the gift of a voice.

It's a gift we all need. So many of us have got great stuff inside. We've all got passions, and when we find our voice, we express them, giving the gift back to the world.

Eric Liddell, gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics, famously said, "God made me to run fast. I feel His pleasure when I run."

He found his voice first in running and later in sharing the gospel as a missionary to China.

You find your voice when you focus on it - marrying your passion with skill and hard work. It's an awesome thing when a person with a beautiful voice is able to share it. It's why we love Susan Boyle or Paul Potts.

It's why, within moments of hearing Potts begin singing Nessun Dorma, many in the audience (including one of the judges) began to weep. Yes, there's his incredible tenor voice, but Pavarotti doesn't impact you like that.

You weep for the magic of an obscure cellphone salesman sharing that voice with the world.

I think it's a spiritual transaction. I think that all of us have got something inside that cries out for expression. It's not our dream - it's God's dream we're incubating. And when we give voice to it, we join the angels in heaven as they give praise to God for his gift.

I knew a young lady who was trained in singing opera. She has a beautiful voice. But none of us who knew her had heard it.

She had experienced so much pain in her life that she had stopped singing. She'd gone mute.

People are like that. They may struggle to find and develop their voice. Then eventually, as they find it, you sense their voice giving you a window to their soul. But then life happens and they shut down and hide the very mode of expression God gave them.

It was an incredible Sunday in Nsoko, orphans seated all around us and on our laps, when, shining like the African sun that shone down on us, the young lady with the opera voice chose to sing again. I've got it on video and it affects me like listening to Potts does.

Many of us need help discovering our voice and many of us have stopped singing. The world needs us to find our voice and feel God's pleasure as much as we need it.

Have you discovered your purpose and your voice? You've got one; we all do. There's little in life more important than finding it.

To read more of Seth Barnes' writings, visit his blog:

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The airplane tickets for all million of us Macs have been bought, the in-country itinerary is being worked on, and the van has been reserved for us at the Johannesburg, South Africa, airport. The Swaziland trip is shaping up nicely as the date quickly approaches.

A key part of our trip will be the ground transportation that will not only deliver us and our suitcases (which will contain, among other things, school supplies, toys, and clothes for the carepoint kids as well as gifts for the missionaries), but will also be essential in driving us to our various places of ministry and around Swaziland as we look at housing options, meet other missionaries, buy our grocery supplies, and attend church services.

A family our size, no matter how comfy we are with being close, can't get by with a teeny car like Jim and I drove on our last trip.

We'll have to be renting a big passenger van. And that passenger van rents at about $100 a day.
We are hoping to find folks who are willing to sponsor us for each day of the fourteen days that we will be in Africa.

One family, whose dad just spent time at the Bheveni Carepoint in September, has already committed to paying for our first day of rental. I've put a heart in the Day 1 window to signify that. Every time that someone pledges to cover a day, I will fill in another window.

If you'd like to be one of those van rental sponsors, just leave me a message, send me an email, or message me via facebook. We hope to have a paypal account set up soon to make donating toward our trip expenses easier.

Also, the Timbali Crafts shirts from Swaziland are still up for auction. All proceeds from that are going toward our January trip. You can read more about that at this link:

Thanks and, as the Swazis would say, stay well!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Yesterday, I coordinated a day trip to Mississippi University for Women for a bunch of girls and their mamas.

It was a beautiful day to be on the lovely and historic campus of The W, as it is affectionately called by its students, faculty, and alums.

I had planned this day for a couple of months and was really excited about showing off my beloved alma mater to new folks as well as seeing some of my W-friends.

After an initial visit to the admissions office, Director Cassie Derden walked us over to the cafeteria where a Thanksgiving meal, along with other offerings such as the grill and salad bar, was awaiting our hungry group.

For some who will remain unnamed (though not unphotographed), the lunch stood out as a highlight of the day and was one of the main reasons they want to be a student at MUW.

While in the cafe, the group had the chance to meet many present day students and some, like Madeleine Gardiner, even sat down and spent the whole meal with us. The W is special in that regard. Not only are past students such as myself still welcomed and even known, but new people are quickly welcomed into the college family.

When lunch had left us full and happy, we walked back to front campus and Cochran Hall. There, Shelley McNees gave a great presentation about the university and three student reps came to take the group on an extensive campus tour.

Among the highlights of the tour were the traditions that help make MUW such a unique place such as the gingko tree (a leaf falls on a girl at The W and a leaf from a sister tree falls on a boy at MSU, and voila! They are destined to marry)...

...the kissing rock....

...and the Old Maid's Gate (gotta walk thru it backwards or be doomed to spinsterhood!).

We also visited with the directors of the Wesley Foundation and the Baptist Student Union as well as peeking in dorms, classrooms, the on-campus chapel, and the amazing fitness center.

After our time at MUW was over, we headed to another tradition, this one an off-campus one. Supper at Proffitt's Porch is a dining tradition I've been enjoying for over 20 years. And the girls loved being introduced to some of their classic offerings such as the Cypress Club sandwich and Chess Pie.

Sarah decided to add her own twist to the culinary tradition, the Chess Pie moustache and goatie.

And what road trip would be complete in this day of digital cameras without the requisite en-route photos. Sarah looks asleep here, she's actually snorting hysterically into Betsie's laugh over some bit of sillyness.

What a day...and night!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


You might, or might not, have noticed that I've not been busy in the internet world today. No facebook status updates, no answered emails, no nothing. In fact, this is the first time I've been on the computer all day.

And why?

Because I just got home after spending a beautiful day with a group of amazing young women and moms at one of my favorite places in the world....

...Mississippi University for Women.

Details and more photos coming soon! Til then, hope your rest is truly restful and that you have sweet Jesus dreams.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


As soon as I grabbed the scorching hot pot handle, I felt the intense pain and knew I'd done what I'd told myself I must remember not to do. I immediately yanked open the fridge door, grabbed the bottle of pure aloe vera, and covered the already red area generously.

But though I acted quickly, the damage was done. One third of my hand was red and throbbing. As I carried on with what I needed to do, the pain dominated my consciousness. No amount of telling myself that it was only a small part of my body made it hurt less or made me able to forget about the pain.

As I thought about how much the burns on my hand were such a big deal even though the rest of my body felt great, I thought about the body of Christ.

The Bible tells us that we are all different parts of the Body when we are followers of Jesus, but we are parts of one Body, His Body. His precious church here on the earth. It doesn't matter if we are middle-class Evangelicals in the heartland of America or persecuted Christians in Asia. We might be members of a non-traditional, surfers-for-Jesus church on some exotic coastline or pastors and teachers of African congregations with members starving to death and dying of AIDS and tuberculosis. Regardless of where we are, who we are, or what we do, if we love Jesus and have Him as our Master, we are part of one Body, His body.

And just as I can't pretend away the pain in my hand, even though the rest of me is feeling fine, I can't pretend that we're doing fine if some of my brothers and sisters in Christ --- other parts of the Body that I am a part of --- are suffering.

Here in America, especially if you're someone like me who lives in a nice house, in a safe neighborhood, with all the necessities that we need, it is too easy to forget that there are parts of the body in pain. There are parts of the body that are in desperate need. To be honest, a lot of times we don't even want to know. We think that we can look the other way, keep our eyes squeezed tight, and what we don't know won't hurt us. Won't require something of us.

Well, with our own bodies, if we just ignore an injury, there is a small chance that it will get better on its own. But not likely.

That gaping wound, if it is big enough, can bleed so much that the high amount of blood loss leads to unconsciousness or even death. If the bleeding stops but the wound is not treated effectively, nasty infections can set in that can lead to blood poisoning, gangrene, loss of a limb, or even death.

A broken bone? Have you ever seen what happens when a broken bone isn't set? Not a pretty sight. The bone fuses up all out of kilter and if it is a leg left like that, that person will become a cripple.

Tooth infected? Abcessed? Did you know you can actually die from this? DIE! From a rotten tooth that gets all nasty and infected in the gums!

One part of the body hurting --- a rotten tooth, a broken limb, a gaping wound on your torso --- affects the entire body.

Anyone who suffers from migraines can attest that the pain in the head renders it almost impossible to function. Who wants to ride a bike or dance with their husband or chase their preschooler in a game of tag with a migraine?

But we do that every day as the Body of Christ. Every day we think we can pretend that we don't see our brothers and sisters in need. And when we do learn of their need, we think we can just not think about it, not act, and our part of the world, our section of the body, will be okay.

Is there any wonder that non-Christians deride our faith so intensely? Is it any wonder that they say things such as "if God is such a loving God then why does He let children die from starvation?"

We as Christians can not fix every problem in the world. There is still free-will and some people are in difficult situations because they've made bad, perhaps even sinful, choices that have landed them in hard places. They might be in situations that they need to walk through for their own good. Some situations, such as tsunamis and tornadoes, are beyond our control. Until Jesus comes again and sets things right, there are going to be bad things that happen to good people.

But let me just ask you to imagine for a minute what this world might look like if those of us who called ourselves Christians began to take the call of Jesus seriously. If we did as Jesus instructed and loved our fellow man as we love our own self.

What would the world look like if Christians actually tithed? Gave 10% of their income to churches and the work of the Kingdom? According to some facts and figures in Richard Stearns book THE HOLE IN YOUR GOSPEL, the total income of American chruchgoers is $5.2 trillion. Trillion with a "T". The overwhelming majority of Christians do not tithe. In fact, the average percent that American churchgoers give is only 2.58% of their income even though the American church is richer than the church has ever been through out its entire history. But what would happen if we were to all tithe? If all of us that call ourselves Christians gave the amount that most Biblical scholars and Christian leaders agree on as the minimum required by the Lord? According to Stearns, "we'd have an extra $168 billion to spend on funding the work of the Church worldwide"!

Richard Stearns goes on to itemize what could be done with that money.

*Universal primary education for children would cost $6 billion.
*Clean water brought to most of the world's poor would cost an estimated $9 billion.
*Basic health and nutrition for everyone in the world would cost $13 billion.

And that leaves a whole lot of money leftover for life-changing actions such as opening half-way homes for ex-cons and recovering addicts, providing micro-loans for start-up businesses in poor nations, printing Bibles in every language of the world, building and staffing Bible colleges for pastors and church leaders, opening counseling centers for those who have endured trauma and war, providing homes of redemption for former child soldiers, giving emergency supplies for those devastated by natural disasters, funding ministries that teach job skills to women who have left prostitution, and on and on and on.

And that's just the impact of money.

Imagine with me if just one family or individual from every church in America was willing to leave behind the comfort of home to go and serve in a hard and needy place? If each church sent out a missionary or family to live in a hurting, inner-city, American neighborhood; a country closed to the gospel; a nation wracked with poverty and disease; or a people group that has no Christian presence at all?

The Southern Baptists alone have 37,000 churches in America. They have over 4000 foreign missionaries. That is a lot of missionaries and they accomplish much for the Lord, but can you imagine if each and every single Baptist church sent out one family or individual? And when you expand that to include all Christian churches in America, that's 340,000 churches!

And what about those who don't go overseas or move to a far-away city? What about the rest of the church members? If they were to donate a few hours every week of their life to ministries that did not benefit them directly, that reached out of the walls of the church, can you imagine how many tutoring programs, teenage mom support groups, soup kitchens, free counseling centers, prison Bible studies, English classes, and homeless shelters could be manned by this huge army of Jesus followers? Taxes could be lowered because the church was taking care of the poor in ways that broke the vicious cycle of poverty. Children would be mentored by Christian leaders who would help them learn to make good life choices that turned them away from gangs and addictions. Families would be made stronger as young mothers were discipled by older women and young dads were taught by church elders. Children would be able to leave institutions and be fostered long-term in Christian homes or adopted. And the elderly would not die alone in sterile hospital settings or flop houses but would leave this world surrounded by those who loved and valued them.

As we began caring for those hurting, handicapped parts of Christ's body, this world would be a different place. And as this world became a different place, the people who do not know Jesus would stand up and take notice, just as they did when Jesus walked this earth 2000 years ago and fed the hungry, healed the sick, cast out demons, loved the outcast, touched the lepers, taught the truth.

Yes, some still rejected Him because He upset their world. These were mostly the politically powerful and the religious leaders who had much to gain by keeping the masses oppressed.

But for the every day people, they knew He was different. His actions were in perfect unity with His words. As He spoke of love and freedom and peace, He lived it out with His life. He was accused of many things, but He was never accused of being unloving.

God has promised us that if we follow Him, we will also be accused of many things. Those that hate Him will also hate us. Let us be labeled radicals. Let them call us crazy dreamers. Let them say we've lost our minds to leave our fine homes and nice cars to live simply in hard places.

But never let them say we didn't care. Never let them say our actions don't back up the words we confess on Sunday mornings. Never let them accurately describe us as hypocrites.

Let's quit looking the other way. Let's quit ignoring those who are dying from treatable causes. Let's quit turning away from those who are persecuted. Let's quit pretending that we don't know children are going to sleep hungry tonight. Let's quit acting like the church can be healthy and whole if parts of it are broken and hurting and dying.

Let's love our brothers and sisters in Christ as we would want to be loved if we were in their situations. Let's show tangible love to those who don't know Jesus so they will come to know Him. Let's quit just saying we are the body of Christ and be the body of Christ.

And that means doing what Christ did when He was with us in bodily form on this earth.

That means loving the lost and the least of these even if it costs us everything. After all, that's what it cost our Lord.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


"...I want to be clear that this does not mean we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God.

No, it means that any authentic and genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life."


Monday, November 14, 2011


You love my new shirt, don't you? Fabulous color. Great design. And look how big my smile is when I wear it!

Now c'mon, you gotta admit that you would love to have a shirt like that is awesome looking and puts such a happy expression on your face! And what would make that expression even happier is knowing the story behind the shirt.

This shirt is from Swaziland! These shirts are being sold by Timbali Crafts (a ministry of Adventures in Missions) to support African women who are working hard to support their families through sewing purses, table runners, and other fabric items. These are the same women who faithfully serve daily at carepoints providing food and love to orphaned and other extremely impoverished children. These women don't receive pay for their volunteer work with the children but they do receive pay when folks buy the Timbali products.

I had my friend Danielle Brower bring back three of them for me when she was in Swaziland back in September ministering at the Bheveni Carepoint. I have already paid for the shirts so that money is already going back to this beautiful ministry. But I'm auctioning two of them off to help fund our trip to Swaziland.

While in Swaziland, we will be exploring what living in Africa will be like for our family as well as ministering at carepoints. We'll have the honor and blessing of loving on some of the kids whose mamas are Timbali crafters. We'll also have the privilege of encouraging and blessing some of the mamas themselves. I can't wait to see the Bheveni heroes again. These women get up early, early, early to first take care of their own family before walking to the carepoint where they will cook meals for over a hundred kids, teach preschool lessons for the little ones, and do whatever else is needed. They may also spend some time sewing on a non-electric machine before they head home at the end of a long day to take care of their families again.

As of right now, the only way to get these fabulous shirts is to go to Swaziland and buy one...unless you've got the right connections and can get one through someone like Danielle or me.

So, if you'd like to be wearing one of these terrific, hard-to-get, Timbali shirts, here's what you need to do:

I'll be auctioning the shirts off til Sunday at 9:00 p.m. I have an extra-large and a medium one. They are cut with feminine styling. I wear a size 12 shirt and my large fits me perfectly, if I do say so myself.

Leave me a comment telling me what size you want and how I can contact you if you are the winner. Also, tell me how much you are bidding.

I'm going to start the bidding on the shirts at $14 plus $2 for shipping and handling if you don't live locally. Whoever has posted the highest bid by the time the auction ends on Sunday will be the winner!

Thanks so much and if you'd like to learn more about the Timbali Crafts ministry or order one of their beautiful handcrafts, just go to their link:

While there, you can even see the photos and read the stories of some of the Timbali women. You'll understand a little bit better why I admire them so much.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


We discovered this sweet Thanksgiving book a few years ago through our library system. The author, Steven Kroll, tells the story of two siblings who are not very grateful for each other as their family prepares for the holiday. But as the family celebrates this day centered around counting your blessings and giving thanks to the Lord, they begin to see each other from a different perspective and grow more appreciative of each other.

Along with CRANBERRY THANKSGIVING, Steven Kroll's THE SQUIRREL'S THANKSGIVING is one of our favorite seasonal must-reads. I'd love to hear what are your family's favorite holiday books.