Posts Tagged ‘relationship with God’

The first Thanksgiving celebration held in America occurred in 1619. On December fourth of that year, thirty-eight English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Part of their original charter stated that they would set aside that day every year and observe it as a day of Thanksgiving. But the next year, 1620, those first settlers in the Americas  forgot to celebrate. Within a few years, it is believed they were absorbed into the Native American tribes around them for survival.

Also in 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. The following year, 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts, saw the most famous Thanksgiving celebration; the one we commemorate these days.  During their first winter in the “New World,” nearly half of those who came to this country on the Mayflower died. In compassion for these settlers, the peaceful Massasoit Indian tribes in the Plymouth area, not only brought food during the winter, but also offered help and instruction when it came time to plant spring crops. As a result of the native Americans and the settlers working together, a bountiful harvest was enjoyed by those in the Plymouth settlement.  To celebrate, the Pilgrims decided to hold a feast for celebration and thanksgiving. This ‘festival’, which lasted three days, included the participation of nearly one hundred Native Americans. Governor William Bradford invited the natives to show them appreciation, for helping his colony survive through the harsh weather conditions.

The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623. That year, the Pilgrims were once again subjected to a great natural hardship, a drought. In the hope of bringing much needed rain, they gathered together in a prayer service, to “seek the face of the Almighty for rain.”  In answer to their prayers, within twelve hours, mercy drops from formerly non-existent clouds began to fall.  The rain was a gentle and steady one, continuing for several days. When it became apparent that the crops (and the colonists) would survive, Governor Bradford declared that the Plymouth settlement would hold another day of thanksgiving.  He once again invited their friends, the “Indians.” 

As other settlers joined the Plymouth pilgrims, it is noted in historical documents that other thanksgiving celebrations were held, each independently of the other.  

In 1668 the Plymouth General Court declared November 25th to be Thanksgiving Day.  The concept didn’t appear to be a national celebration, until 1777,  when the first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.

Two years later, saw the United States as a fledgling nation, with a president and governing body, known as Congress. It was 1789, and the country’s first president, George Washington, made his very first Presidential proclamation.  He declared Thanksgiving to be a national event, to be celebrated on November 26 each year.  This custom was followed until the next president,  a federalist named Thomas Jefferson, did away with the holiday.  “We do not need a national holiday to recognize God as the Source of all Blessings,” he said.

For the following sixty years, our nation had no official day to recognize blessings and give thanks to God.  It is interesting to note that during that time, our country became deeply enmeshed in the slave trade, and a civil war broke out between the northern and southern states… in the absence of giving thanks…..

Then, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale expressed her concern to the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln; requesting the nation needed to set aside a day to “give thanks unto Him from whom all blessings flow.”  On October 3 of that year, President Lincoln set the day as a national holiday to be celebrated each year.

Interestingly enough, the Confederate armies had been victorious in the civil war until that point.  In fact, the final confederate victory in the war was seen in the Battle of Chickamauga Creek in Tennessee. In mid-October of 1863, that began to change. By the end of November of 1863, generals Grant and Sherman had seen a victory at Chattanooga, and were moving towards Atlanta.

Slavery was on its way out. 

Did the shift in the war’s direction have something to do with the Thanksgiving proclamation?  Many in that day believed so.  Lincoln’s decision was seen as an invitation to “allow God into the affairs of men.”    

The day was loosely considered a national day of remembrance, until 1941 — when Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November each year to be a national and legal holiday…. interestingly enough, the same year we began to fight once again for our very survival as a nation.

There are lessons to be learned from history.  There are lessons to be learned everywhere.  What would have happened in our nation had there NOT been a sixty year gap in recognizing and remembering where our national blessings have come from?  Where would we be in regard to spiritual growth and understanding?

It is the same in our day-to-day lives.  In my own life, I am realizing that when I pause, and take the time to find the “good” thing happening in the midst of my “bad” thing — I have less stress, I feel more connected to God, I think more clearly, and I communicate with grace– hopefully even when I’m under pressure.

Any time I begin to talk this way, someone will say, “You don’t know my life.  I don’t have much to be thankful for. Do you know what happened this year?” 

I hear you.  We are all in the midst of re-organizing our lives.  If you find yourself having difficulty giving thanks, here are a few things that I hope will help you to begin the process….

Give thanks……

                That we have anything at all to be thankful for. 

                That we can make a tuna fish sandwich with all the fixings.

                That we know people who will tell us the truth.

                That true love and good health are related.

                That she wants your help to hang the Christmas lights.

                That we saved old cards and pictures, and have time to go through them, remembering.

                That we have adversity.  Without it we won’t/can’t grow.

                That we are able to breathe.

                That we can experience seasons.

                That we are living.

                That we have a car, and can get from point A to point B.

                That we can chase fireflies.

                That we have friends.

                That the online site has free shipping.

                That the mammogram was clear.

                That we can watch old movies.

                That we live in a free country.

                That there are soldiers who fight for our liberty.

                That we have the freedom to worship as we choose to.

                That we have pets who love us.

                That we can believe in Santa Claus and not get into trouble.

                That someone in the supermarket said, “Go ahead of me.”

                That we can buy MacDonalds or Taco Bell on a busy day.

                That we have a job.

                That we can color our hair and hide the gray.

                That there are so many good books to read.

                That God made coffee.

                That God made chocolate.

                That God invented snow and children invented snowballs.

                That the country is still quite safe in spite of the politicians.

                That we even have a little spare change.

                That the cranberry crop wasn’t ruined by the frosts.

                That pumpkin pies are once more in fashion.

                That turkey is cheap enough for the poor man’s table.

                That when we pray, we have a God who not only hears us, but answers us, and wants relationship.

The old phrase “every cloud has a silver lining” came from the concept of finding something to give thanks for.  What “silver” is God wanting to give you today? 


(c)2010 Duplication without permission requires permission.


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In the 1650’s,  John Bunyan wrote a book.  It was an allegorical novel, said to describe a dream.  He titled it “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  If you haven’t read it, it’s a great read – although the original version is a little harder to get through; old English and all.  When I was about ten or eleven, I had an easy-read version that I read over and over again until the cover wore thin.  I loved the symbolism, even as a child.  If you haven’t heard of him, John Bunyan was a Reformation preacher who lived in England.  During the difficult years of religious upheaval, when for a time it was illegal to even own a page from a Bible,  this part-time tinker (repairman/handyman) gathered many together with his teachings about the love of God.  He was a man who understood the compassionate side of Abba Father. His daughter, Mary, was blind.  I have wondered many times if he wrote his allegory for her.  In the years since it’s initial publication,  “Pilgrim’s Progress” has sold more copies than any other book ever printed, except for the Bible.  So, take my word for it; it’s a good read.

Which brings me to my story. This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an  experience I had when I was child, reading this old classic story.  As I said, the book is an account of a dream. It describes the story of a man named Christian, who is making a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  Along the way, he meets many who help him, and many more who hinder him.  He gains companions; he experiences pain; he loses loved ones; and he finally makes it to his destination.  All along the way, he learns and grows, becoming the person he was created to become.

In the middle of his journey, Christian has travelled a long way.  Everywhere he goes, he looks for indicators to show him the next step in his journey.  He has a map, but sometimes he can’t decipher it well. Continually, he needs others to help him figure it out.  But he keeps moving.  He comes to a steep hill, and looks upward.  Sadly, overwhelmingly, it appears that the road continues up this small mountain;  so he sighs and moves forward.  He is tired; he is forlorn; he is weary; he is hungry and thirsty; he doesn’t know if he can do it.  As he climbs, the mountain becomes steeper than he anticipated.  Finally, he has to clamber on his hands and knees just to make headway. It takes all the energies he has in his possession.  But now he is committed. He can’t go back. He can’t stop.  He must finish this part of the journey.

Soon, he comes to a clearing.  He is close to the peak of the mountain.  He sees a large house, nestled close to the summit.  He thinks “I could get some refreshment there, if they will take me in.”  So, he moves on towards the house.  But then, as he draws closer, his heart sinks.  The pathway to the house is guarded by two large lions, who, although shackled to rock posts with neck irons, look at him with menacing eyes.  Fear rises in his heart.  He stops in his tracks. 

Now what?

Suddenly, a voice speaks from the front door of the house. The Caretaker shouts to him, “Don’t be afraid!  They are chained to the posts!  Keep to the middle of the path and they won’t be able to reach you!”

With a flash of hope, Christian slowly and carefully moves past the lions, who growl as he passes.  He arrives at the front door untouched. He is safe.  He breathes a sigh of relief. 

“Welcome!” says the Caretaker. “We have been waiting for you.” 

Surprised, Christian discovers a Place of Refreshment.  He is bathed, and receives medical treatment for his injuries.  He is given clean clothing.  He eats at a banquet table.  He laughs and relaxes in an atmosphere of safety.  For several days, he stays.  He finds his heart again.  He gains direction.  He asks questions.  He listens.  He learns.

Then, on the third morning, the King’s daughters; Faith, Hope and Charity, help him get ready to complete his journey.  They clothe him in armor, hand-fit to his person.  He is given a sword and a shield.  He is provisioned, and given a scroll of promises.  For you see, the House on the mountaintop was the King’s House.  It was a place of refuge.

In the next chapter of the book, Christian faces the dragon Appollyon, his nemesis; the image of Satan in his own weaknesses.  Because of his provisioning, he prevails victorious. He emerges from the battle battered, but wiser; stronger somehow.  He would have died in the battle had he not been to the King’s House.

It’s my favorite place in the book.  The House of Refreshing.

This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an experience I had during one of my many readings of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  I was ten years old. I had just finished the King’s House chapter, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of the Presence of God. “When I grow up, Jesus, I want my house to be like that.  I want people to go away from my house stronger than they came in.  I want to help people.”

That hope has remained a center in me for the past forty-three years.  When I met Bill, in our many conversations, building relationship, his heart resonated with that focus as well.  (It’s wonderful when you marry someone who carries some of your same pages in their own instruction manual for living.)  As as result, that same hope has filtered into the way we approach pastoring and leading people.  “Let them leave stronger than they came in.” 

It has become a personal mission statement for my counseling ministry as well.

All that being said, dear reader, I bring you a request for prayer.  My Doll-House Toehead (see blog by the same title), and her mother (see blog titled “Peaches”), move away this weekend.  They are on to the next step of rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of abuse, court systems and custody battles.  I miss them already…

I sent my toehead away with a jar of Play-Doh… one we played with together…. small offerings.  Someday, at journey’s end, we won’t have to go in different directions.

Pray for these two precious souls.  Pray for their armor to remain strong; that they lose nothing — and gain everything.

The world is a learning environment.  Some life-lessons come harder than others. 

We all need safe places of refreshing. 

Someday, I want to build a House of Safety for women in such stages of life….. God knows.  Pray for our ministry as well.


(c)2010 atg/dcg.  No duplication without permission.

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This blog is actually being posted for my friend, Ron.  It seems that in sending the hardcopy curriculum to him for a class, one of the CDs for session 8 was scratched.   How does that happen exactly?  Although I am grateful for technology and its many methods of opening doors for each of us, I am now certain that I will never understand it all…. Oh well.

Ron, here is session 8, in two parts.  I realize one of these is unnecessary, but I thought, “Hey what if someone else sees the blog, and wants to listen to the session?  Half a session is not as good as the whole thing — (Although session 8 is the wrap up of an entire class).  It might be helpful to someone anyway — so here it is.  The theme of the class is “How Does Growth Actually Happen in us?”  We were utilizing all the elements taught in the prior 7 sessions.  As you listen, realize that each of the elements being discussed (because this was the wrap up, it was a class discussion) had been previously addressed pretty thoroughly …. The first recording is 67 minutes long, and the second is almost as long….

Identity Formation — Session 8, first half

Identity Formation — Session 8, last half

 If you want the entire class, it is available on lulu.com; and will be on Amazon by January, 2011.  Those who will use it in Ron’s setting (Covenant Theological Seminary), will also have other reading, assignments, and an exam…

All that being said…. if you do listen, I’d love your feedback!!


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My Dad tells the story of a man who lived in his town during the years he was growing up.  This man was uneducated, and had been deprived of a high school education because of the depression.  I don’t remember the entire story, but it will help you to know he had dropped out of high school, in order to do his part to save a family farm.  Well, now it was years later.  He had left home, married a wife, and now had children of his own. Weary of small tips, tired of waiting tables, he realized he needed a job with benefits. So, he applied at the county school board office for a position as a janitor in the high school. 

“I’m sorry,” he was told. “We would like to hire you, but we have requirements for our employees.  It wouldn’t make sense for us to hire someone to work in the high school, who never attended it.  You need to have a high school education in order to work here.”  The man left the school board’s office, deeply discouraged.  He needed to provide for his family.  “Why not enroll in classes and finish your education now?” the secretary had suggested. But the man had no money for school. 

He was desperate. Unable to wait for schooling,  and in dire need of cash, he began to use his pickup truck to haul materials for friends, who would pay him in cash.  He hauled everything from furniture to hay bales to trash. He did such a wonderful job, his friends  began recommending him to their friends, and those new friends recommended him to larger clients. Soon, he purchased a new truck, and hired workers.  Within 3 years, he purchased a fleet of semi-trailers. 

On the day he signed contacts with the bank,  he told the officers, “If you gentlemen will witness me as I make my mark, we can close this deal.” 

 “Can’t you read or write?” they asked.  “No, I had to quit school to take care of my family.”  In astonishment they replied, “What would you have been able to do with a high school education?” 

“I’d be the janitor at the high school,” he answered.   


And yet, if he had been forced to choose early on, what path would be the wisest course for himself and his family; with secure benefits and a guarantee of income?  He would have taken the janitorial job, of course. 

Looking back, he realized.  When the first  job didn’t come through, he had wondered whether God had forgotten him. He felt stuck; mired into a waiting pattern; with no outlet, or hope for the future. 

Many times, when we experience hard circumstances, we do so, because our Heavenly Father is setting us up for a miracle. He allows us to experience hard circumstances so He can show us what exactly we have in our hand; something He can use to bring us into His purpose for our lives.

He has a plan, and it is a good plan.  His design is to bless us. He loves us …

His methods have not changed from days of old.  He still uses the same tools in shaping a vessel.

When Ruth found herself in a shack at the edge of a foreign city, taking care of a grumpy, embittered old widow, she did what she could to make ends meet.  She gleaned in the fields with the poor.  She took care of that widow — At the end of the story, she met and fell in love with the owner of the fields; Boaz, the city’s ruler.  She became the great-grandmother to King David of Bethlehem.

When Joseph made the mistake of flaunting his dreams and visions to jealous brothers, he ended up in slavery.  Then, falsely accused, he ended up in jail.  But he allowed God to make adjustments in his character.  He began interpreting dreams, serving wherever he could, making friends, staying hopeful — At the end of the story, he became the prime minister of a nation, saving more than a million people from death by starvation.  He also saved his family, and provided a place for them to live, setting up the founding of a nation.

When Moses murdered an official, and buried him in the sand, thinking to keep it a secret, he was discovered.  He had to run for his life, losing his place as a prince in a palace. He fled to the backside of the desert; to Midian.  He tended sheep for thirty years.   Was he forgotten? No.  He was waiting…… being seasoned by God…. His life was receiving flavor.

The prophet Elisha was greeted by a desperate widow one day.  “Help me!” she cried. “The creditors are coming to take away my two sons!  I don’t have any idea what I should do!”

The prophet smiled at her, comforting. “What do you have on hand?” he asked.

“I have a little oil in a jar,” she replied.

“Go home,” the prophet replied. “Go to your neighbors and ask to borrow as many containers as you can. Then, bring them all into your house, and begin pouring out what you have. Watch what God does.”

Unexplainably excited and hopeful, the widow went home, and did what Elisha had told her to do.  She visited all of her friends and neighbors and borrowed everything from an empty jar to a waterpot.  Then, she and her sons went inside the house and shut the door.  What was God going to do, they wondered?  With hands shaking, she lifted the small flask of oil, almost empty that morning. Amazingly, she poured out oil, and it filled the first jar, then the second.  The oil kept coming!  She looked into the flask.  Where was the oil coming from?

“Bring me another jar,” she told her son.

“There are no more jars,” he replied.

She looked into the flask.  It was almost empty once again. 

Looking around her small home, she saw every vessel she had borrowed filled to the brim with oil. How had it happened?  She hadn’t paid attention to how much was coming out of the flask.  She had just kept pouring…. Now she headed back to see Elisha. She told him what had happened.

“That’s good,” he told her.  “God is taking care of you.  Go and sell the oil.  Pay off your creditors, and you and your sons live on the rest.”

Each of the stories I have told here are true; actual accounts of the working of God in the lives of people who trusted Him, and were willing to wait for a promise to show itself.  Oh, did I tell you the first guy — the one with the trucking company — started out praying for a job?  Then, when the answer was delayed, he almost gave up….. But the delay happened for a reason ….

God wanted him to look around and see what he had on hand.

Just like the widow.

One of the habitual methods God uses in developing people, is this: He allows us to get to a place where we have to trust Him with what we have on hand.  The need becomes great — and then — strangely — He instructs us to begin “pouring out.”  It might be taking a gift to a neighbor. It might be choosing to serve someone. I don’t know what that would look like in your life right now. You will have to ask God.  Just say, “God, what do I have on hand?  What do you want me to do?”  He will show you.  He doesn’t play games. He is good. 

Sometimes, even true stories like these are hard to swallow…. but I challenge you to do so.  The fact is that God cares.  He cares about you.  He cares about your circumstance.  He knows the areas of your life where you feel desperate.  Perhaps your desperation isn’t financial; perhaps it has to do with just living your life.  Perhaps its your family; or your relationships. Perhaps you have been holding on to a promise, wondering when it will happen.  If it will happen.

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, felt that way.  She laughed when God reconfirmed His promise to Abraham…. In fact, she named her miracle son, Isaac, meaning “Laughter.”  Think about it.  She had a hard time believing God, and she still received the promise… How does that work exactly…. Because God’s grace cannot be earned by good behavior.   That might be why we call it “Grace.”  

Just remember the little boy who loaned Jesus his lunch — five loaves and two fish…. It must have been amazing to watch what God did…. So don’t worry……

What do you have on hand?

Thought to ponder: Everyone must row with the oars he has at the moment.

                                                            Old English Proverb

 Prayer of preparation for today: Father, I choose to look for Your plan and purpose in my present station and circumstance.  Show me what You have placed in my hand.  Show me the next step.  Amen

(c)2010  Duplication for profit requires permission.

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I love YouTube videos… Recently I found one that showed a prank played by several college students on the public-at-large.  They had super-glued a quarter to the ground, and then set up a camera “blind” in a local mall. The results were hilarious.  People would walk by, most of them looking down.  Some would notice the quarter. Some would walk by it, oblivious.  Those who did notice the coin, stopped.  Almost all bent down to pick it up, after looking around to see who was watching. When it became difficult to lift the quarter from the ground, responses varied.  A few even got down on their hands and knees and tried to leverage the coin from the ground. 

Watching the video started me thinking…

Like most glues, Superglue is called a “bonding agent.”  Anything it touches will become bonded together; like my thumb and forefinger; or the china cup I’m just not willing to get rid of yet…. And it only takes a couple of drops too…. The results are almost instantanious; becoming permanent…  (unless I have a chisel handy…)

Don’t you wish it was the same with relationships?  Don’t you wish there was some fantastic agent that could be applied to a relationship, or even applied in drops to our inner understanding, deepening and sealing those relationships we sometimes fear might be slipping away?  Such an element could take us back to the formative years, when our self-concept was being formed; when we were experiencing imprinting; when our morals were developing; when we were being instructed in our values…. 

It would change our perceptions, and help us to see the world … well, properly…

Studies have shown that healthy emotional bonding in a child’s life is crucial in building a solid sense of personal belonging and confidence later in life.  Interestingly enough, the same studies have shown a link between uninterrupted, positive bonding during childhood years (ages 0-12), and the development of the adult moral conscience.  It seems that we each are born with the desire to receive approval; to be understood as having “meant well” in our lives.  Additionally, we are born with a temporary, and fleeting innocence that predisposes us to believe the best, to learn, and to live motivated lives. 

I’ll throw in an illustration here: As salt and baking soda is to a cake’s batter, so healthy bonding causes our lives “to rise.”

That doesn’t mean that we are born without a sin nature… Instictively, we all possess the ability to choose ourselves first — that goes without saying…. There are things that we must be taught; like sharing; like listening; like empathsizing with others’ pain, like taking the smaller piece of pie because the apple pie on the table is our brother’s favorite…  No, we are each inherrantly selfish, with our personal orbits rotating in loyalty around our own comforts and sense of safety.  But early years are the best season to shape unselfishness. 

Early years are the time when, as Anne Ortlund stated so eloquently years ago, “children are wet cement.”

Two studies come to mind, both of which I re-read recently, involve the mindsets of sociopathic killers over the past 200 years or so.  The studies included the lives of murderers such as Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Hilter, Josef Mengele, as well as more modern mass murderers, such as those who have perpetrated school shootings; like Colombine, like Paducah, Cleveland, and New Orleans.  There have been more than 60 in our country to date.  And lest we believe that the problems exist only in our own sphere of influence, we must remember that school shootings have taken place in other countries as well:  Finland, the Netherlands, Germany to name a few.  These studies show that whenever a person becomes sociopathic, it is a result of emotional numbness, of ambient depression, of isolation — in short, an un-bonded-ness in the life.


Yes. I hear you. Not everyone with a bonding issue becomes a socio-path.  However, we were created to bond — at Creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”    When we are not well bonded, and are designed to bond with someone — who do we bond with?  We bond to ourselves. We feel alone.  We become our own sense of “rightness.” Even within a family, we feel  “outside” somehow.  We don’t sense much emotion, unless it is negative; like anger, depression, fear.  We try to meet our own needs — even when we don’t know what they really are — and we are tempted to overindulge.

Can you fix the cake as it comes out of the oven?  Can you add salt and baking soda then — when the layer hasn’t risen, and it “tastes unappealing.” No, for the cake to rise properly, those things must be added in at “batter stage.”

Sadly, the majority of people I see in my counseling office represent our culture pretty well. Most are trying to work through bonding issues — gaps in emotional development.  They are people who thought life was “just breezing along,” until a crisis presented itself; something they were emotionally untooled for; something that released a torrent of deeper pain from early life. Typically, men cover these gaps with anger; women with fear and depression.  And bonding gaps in children — become love needs that drive us in adults.


How does a parent, or authority figure,  impart bonding to their child?  Consider: can they give away something they never received?

How does a mother guide without nagging or complaining?  Consider: can she follow a pattern she has never seen modeled?

How does a father become involved and empathetic towards his family?  Consider: where would he learn those examples?

Does our busy-ness and driven-ness as a culture explain away a child’s inherrent need for bonding? Why do we seek to be “normal,” rather than “healthy?”  

Answer: We can only do what we have seen done, and repeat what we have experienced…

Unless….  The solution is not an easy one.

Our culture is in need of healthy fathers, healthy mothers, …… and healthy churches. 

Currently, I am one of those who serve in a congregation of believers.  My counseling practice includes some from my own congregation, as well as many from outside our church walls.  Too many times, I hear the words, “I don’t go to church anymore, because I didn’t feel I was good enough; I couldn’t keep all the rules. I didn’t know how.”  Too many times, sadly, people in bars have proven to be kinder than people inside a church structure.   And worse, the only people who are offended when I repeat these statements, usually are those who feel they already know Jesus Christ.  Those who don’t know Him yet agree…. or even enlarge the statements.

How do we learn to bond?  My simple answer, humbly offered is this:  We must allow our hearts to receive the love of God.  It is not something we can earn, or prove to be worthy of.  But it is the only substance that can take us each back to “batter stage.”  Jesus said, in Matthew 18, “Unless you be converted (changed) and become as a little child, you will not see the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

Stop and think about that for a moment… reread the last paragraph… I don’t know about you, but I really want to see the Kingdom come — on earth, as it is in heaven… don’t you?  What would it take for you to let your heart go back to “batter stage?”  Can you believe that God deeply and thoroughly loves you — really loves you — just because He made you? What bonding needs were not addressed in your “batter stage?”

The only one who can help us become who we are designed to become, is the One who made us… Jesus Christ…. He is the bonding agent.

The salt and baking soda part of the proposition includes finding real disciples of Jesus who will allow you to learn as you grow; and will love you as well, without judgment, or give you a list of rules that must be “kept.”  I say that, because it is important that we realize that when we allow Jesus to really love us, we will begin to hear and feel His Spirit speak to us.   On the inside of us. And when the Holy Spirit speaks, He teaches us; encourages us; and helps us to make changes from the inside out.  It’s always better to work with Him, because He is our Creator; He alone knows who we are destined to become.  

When the Holy Spirit leads us, He never leaves us alone. He always leads us into a safe community.  In the Bible, that community is called “The Body of Christ,” or “The Family of God.” 

If you would like further study about this, please email me at awakenedtogrow@yahoo.com…. or find me on facebook.


“…. there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother…” (Proverbs 18:24)

“…. (Jesus said,) I will never leave you or forsake you….” (Hebrews 13:5)

(c)2010. atg/dg  Duplication for profit requires permission.



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new seasons

Why does change have to be a part of the growth process?  I mean, I’m not usually a complainer, but this time I just have to say something to somebody.  Why can’t the good things just stay the same, and have it be the bad things that change in our lives?   That would be such a better deal.  And yes, I realize that if I keep heading towards this line of thought I will end up in a pity-party…. so we won’t go there…. but really!

It really shouldn’t be such a big deal, I tell myself…. Other people have done it — other parents do it all the time.    You see, we are in the midst of taking our youngest child to college.  Where did the time go?

 The baby. The caboose.

It feels like a final chapter in a book; like the last day of summer; like the beginning of a sunset….. 

I know…  I will never homeschool her again.  Or remind her to clean her room. Or, complain because her belongings have overtaken the living room…. Or, help her find her keys…. Or, inform her of her responsibilities…..

At least not as her mother, persay —

Now we begin a season of deeper friendship…. of coaching when needed and requested…. of more prayer and less…. less… less what? 

I’m not sure yet; this is new ground.

An old friend met us at the airport; coming with new friends….. She was glowing; excited; smiling and alive; looking forward with anticipation and hope;  we all sat laughing together at Starbucks….

I watched and pondered her for a moment.

Is she really so close to womanhood?  How did this happen?

These thoughts have come unbidden.  They overtake me.

After all, her oldest sister is married now…. we went through this; didn’t we?  Didn’t I learn some of this … before?….  I remember some of this ground, I think, but it still feels like completely new territory…

Why am I surprised?  I suppose because I thought this was a learned lesson; a notch in the belt, if you will. 

Learning to let go is hardest the first time, they say…. so why is there a lump in my throat?  This would be my third..

In my heart of hearts, I’m thrilled she has chosen to obey God.  I know she is destined for a purpose. I have prayed for her.  I have sought God and felt Him speak to me.   

It’s just that…. well…. I didn’t think this would happen so soon.  You know?   

I should have been ready for it — this emotional waterfall…. And yes, she’s gone on short term trips overseas in the past.  Yes, she took a year off after high school.  Yes, she is almost twenty — but don’t you understand?  Sbe’s the last one…. Can’ t life just stay the same?

And then, the light of the Holy Spirit breaks in on my fears.  “Let go,” He says gently.  “Trust me. I have only good plans for her life.”

“Okay, Lord,” I say. “You’re sure you got her?”

It’s like He’s smiling at me.  Really, daughter?

Okay, Lord.  Really.

Sorry, Lord.  You do a much better job.  You have no unknowns.  You are the Perfect Parent.

Creator… Builder of Persons…Designer… Author of all good gifts…. and relationships.

In retrospect, I have learned so much from my children.  In their own unique ways, each of the three have taught me about what it means to live; I mean, really live; what life means. 

Life.  Energetic, fun-loving, full of adventure; each child is unique in a different way. 

Our oldest: She is strong, adventurous, uncompromising and creative, 

Our second: She is strong, bubbly, energetic,  and adapting.

This one? She is also strong, quick, graceful and perceptive. She said something that shook me today. “Mom, it wouldn’t be so hard to leave home if I hated it here.  But it’s a great environment. I hate to leave.  I just know I have to. It’s time.”  When did she become so strong and assured…. confident?

Did I tell you our girls are strong?  They will need to be as strong as the sturdy oak, in order to hold to their values in the fiercely fluctuating winds of our times.  They each have a calling from God …. as do we all…. They each have a sense of personal purpose … as should we all….  Older now, I am thankful they each have more energy than I.

But I have loved this season.  Are you sure it has be time for a change, Lord?

Again, this sense of Peace overwhelms me.

Okay.  (Thanks for being patient with me while I get this, Lord. I’m so glad that Patience was Your idea….. lol)

Isn’t the ability of the Creator to create uniquely different, altogether complete, Personhood, in each of us, an amazing thing? Jeremiah, the prophet of old, wrote that God calls each of us to our destiny, while we are still within our mother’s womb.  The psalmist, David, wrote that we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  He said that God knows and sees each of us, and even the things about ourselves we think should be hidden away, are precious to Him;

That God follows and pursues us for relationship. 

He not only loves us; that in itself is amazing — (that the Almighty God; the Creator and Redeemer of heaven and earth;  that He would love me….warts and all!)

But He goes further… He not only loves me — and you — But He likes us as well.

Everything good comes from Him; His composite Nature is goodness and grace… He is not the Author of the bad. He has good plans. He is trustworthy – the Author of the trust concept.  He is faithful. 

Oh yes, I remember that now.   In the midst of my painful dissertations with my soul; in the midst of my debate about just why it is we need to follow-through with His direction and plan; I remember.

Oh, I get it now.  I really can’t look back over my shoulder at what was … unless I intend to give Him thanks.  And if I can’t give thanks, I’m stuck in that place of looking back.  But when Resolved, I need to press forward, to move on toward the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13)… to pursue Him for the reasons as to why He rescued my life from destruction…. Looking to the future; Embracing the past; Discovering fresh Purpose; Taking more time to listen.

Hopefully, I will “get it” quicker now that I have more life experiences logged in my journey with Him. 

He has plans for me too.

Bill and I are more comforting towards each other these days — we are both in the midst of a learning experience; one that won’t have words for awhile yet… probably because we don’t yet consciously grasp what we are learning ….

Thanks for listening, dear reader. You are helping me to sort out the nitty gritty issues this morning… much earlier than I planned.

I don’t want to travel through life looking over my shoulder; regretting what might have been; wishing for more; somehow discontented with the process…. I need to look ahead, and “square up to the plate.”  I want to learn these lessons well.  After all, anyone who walks down the road looking backward is terribly distracted; they definitely will miss the scenery.

And therein is the lesson. Why would I want my children to live that way?  I wouldn’t.

Thanks, Lord.  I wouldn’t want this any other way.

Be blessed, baby.  Your dad and I will always be here; but for this new season? 

God’s got you. And He really does do a good job.  All the time.


(c) 2010

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What an exciting day!  “Journey” is a reality!!  …. The biblical novel I have been working on the for last 8 years is in print, ready for distribution!   This morning, we discovered it on amazon.com, as well as several other online sites.  I am so thankful for Advantage books, specifically for Mike and Karyn Janiczek; I hope my small offering helps to enlarge their publishing endeavors …  Their company really does need to be a household name — like Tyndale, or Word…. I am also so very humbled and thankful for the many friends who donated funds to help make the book a reality — I have learned many lessons this year about the need for community…. What a blessing!

If you would like to see the book, it is available on amazon.com here.

Here is a little more information;

From the back cover —

Everyone loves a story; some we love because they make us laugh; some because they make us cry, touching our pain.
Everyone has a story. Many are untold. Some we remember for opening doors, presenting keys for adventure and discovery.

Some stories are true; some are not. Based on actual events, this story weaves a riveting account; drawing readers in, captivating our attention, making us part of the plot action.
Journey is the historical biography of the life of a young, courageous woman named Mary. Based on more than eight years of painstaking research, the author has drawn from more than fifty sources and a trip to Israel in order to bring actual Biblical events to life. Drawing from the lessons and stories of those she has helped in her counseling practice, the author paints a compelling portrayal of what it meant to live in ancient times.

Here are reviews from some of those who have read the book already… and let me just say in advance, ” thanks for listening….”

“Journey is a good read, with wonderful characterization, and a riveting plot. It makes the times and people come to life. The interesting thing is that the reader finds oneself identifying with the struggles and questions of the people – as though they are us.”(Sharon N.)


“When I was reading Debbye’s book, I felt like I had been picked up and placed into the lives of the people who lived in Bible times. As I read, I realized that a lot of women, who have not been nurtured from an early age, feel the things that Mary Magdalene felt. I identified with her feelings. During one scene in particular, I felt the Presence of God draw close to me, bringing personal healing. It was a personal visitation because of the picture painted of Jesus’ ministry. I remember weeping for a long time, and emerging with a sense of healing. At another point during the book, I experienced being strengthened and empowered by the Lord; to accept the freedom to become the woman I was created to become; not afraid of the culture or of other people’s reactions and words.” (Dianne T.)

“I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a good read, with a good story line. I loved the richness of the culture, customs and history. It was all so interesting and informative!” (Jean R.)


“This story offers a number of benefits as it weaves history, healing and spiritual truths into its pages. I have gained valuable insight into the way that living a life in Jesus brings healing to the soul. I have been blessed and changed from reading it.” (Jill B.)


“I love reading stories about real people. Journey made Jesus real to me. Reading this book has helped me to understand God better.”(Carol J.)


“To whom it may concern:

“I have had the privilege to read Journey by Debbye Graafsma. I found it to be a compelling read. The following is an attempt to explain why I found this book to be so enjoyable. The first requirement I have when I read fiction, is that I must care about the characters. Debbye achieved this by presenting characters who were believable, who had depth, and to whom the average person can relate.

“She allowed you into their lives, warts and all. By doing so, the reader can identify with the characters and care about what happens to them. Another unique aspect of the book was the fact that the culture and architecture was so accurately and vividly portrayed. The reader could envision walking the streets as they existed in Biblical times.

“The discussion of business transactions was also very interesting. The caravans transporting goods, the purchase of linens and cloth, operation of vineyards, the presence of spas – all provided further insight into how people lived and earned money.

“To me, the most unique aspect of this book was how the common people reacted to Jesus. What they thought of Him; How they reacted to Him. This is evidenced by the description of how Jesus delivered Mary of the demons. This sequence was so vivid and moving that it brought tears to my eyes. Also, Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with oil and wiping them with her hair was very moving.

“The portrayal of Simon the Pharisee gave me, for the first time, a clear picture of the mindset of the religious leaders at the time of Jesus’ ministry. I have a better understanding of why the religious leaders wanted to crucify Jesus.

“I am confident that Journey will minister to its readers. I believe both male and female readers would enjoy this book. It will minister to whoever reads it.” (Thomas R.)

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“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” – CS Lewis, (God in the Dock)

Six dolphins washed up on the Louisiana shore this week … Hundreds of egrets and pelicans had to be decontaminated, to prevent suffocation. The BP oil spill has reached the shores… The news has shown photographs of dragonflies trying to clean sticky tar from their wings.  For most of the animals, the environment has become toxic, closing off the ability to breathe. The oily film on the top of our Gulf Waters has become a coating on everything surfacing from the depths below; a coating that must be cleansed off for life to continue.

There is an element alive in the Western Church these days. Like the oil spill, it has filtered into the wetlands of our lives, contaminating every part of our culture.  It has soaked into those things in us that would fly, seeking to forever hinder our abilities to experience the Living God on a healthy level.

It is called functional atheism. I had never heard the term until today.  It marks a discovery for me.

As believers in Jesus Christ, none of us would ever admit to atheism.  Outside the circles of the church, those who do profess to be atheists, are those who refuse to believe in God; or admit God into their inner life workings.  And, many of those I know who do hold to atheism, do so because of injuries received through the hands of those who call themselves believers.  Those believers many times have been living in “functional atheism” themselves.

Simply put, functional atheism is the “unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here on earth, we are the ones who must make it happen.” Sadly, it is pathology, if you will, that eventuates in burnout, depression, and despair.

It is a mindset that has been taught to us in the Western church from childhood.  It says we must work to make God happy.  It teaches that the bottom-line of what we do in our Christian walk, we do in order to gain favor, or recognition.  We must strive to make God happy… …as if God is unhappy with us from the beginning, and we must somehow convince Him to like us.

Functional atheism is a mindset that says “I must do it all for God” – rather than with God, through God, and in God. It is task orientation.  Somehow, I am earning my place… God will reward my efforts if I work hard enough, long enough, do things right, and don’t give up.  By reason of sheer will, I will be recognized.  I will earn significance, increase my value, and earn my spot.

And yet, the Scripture is clear that our sense of self, and our sense of adequacy must come within — from the Spirit of God, rather than from what we do.  Jesus taught that when we come to Him, we will never thirst again.  Something will happen inside of us that will become an everlasting spring of freshness, of vibrancy, of hope, of Life.  The Incarnation of His Life in us will cause change, work miracles, and affect growth in every level of our existence.

He desires to live His life in us.

But in our Western religious culture, because of our brokenness and task orientation, we have learned to leave God out of the equation.  Instead, we isolate first; and try to figure things out. Then, like a toddler’s scribbled crayon picture, we present our findings and our efforts to God.  “See what I did?” we say.  Inwardly, we expect Him to bless us.  If He doesn’t, we become disillusioned – our efforts were not good enough.  

Can any of us do things the way He would do them?  

We would never consciously call this atheism. 

But it is.

What we would never call it in words, we live out in function.

It is the act of leaving God out.

We trust ourselves first.

When serving Jesus is the center of our lives; when He is active in our core, we come to awareness that we cannot carry the whole load.  It was meant to be shared with others.

We come to the discovery that we were created for the purpose of relationship; not because we are supposed to perform a list of duties and tasks.  Our destiny is not about function.  It is about the Designer.

We learn we need community – not to work together (although that happens).  No, community occurs to help us to enjoy our lives.  Simply put, we need help with our growth and development – all of us do; no exceptions. Personally, I need help to grow out of my blind-spots. I need encouragement when I become task focused.  I need friends and family… and they need me.

And when a leader is healthy, they will lead differently. Leading programs and projects become part of getting the people done, rather than the other way around … (using people to get the projects done)…. The point of the exercise is to grow the people, equip the people, heal the people, rather than grow the structure, administrate the machine, or organize the program.

Growth in God becomes about sharing discoveries and growth points.  It also becomes fun.

Functional atheism destroys the concepts of having fun, enjoying God, or creative play.  It makes everything about work. “What am I doing for God?” becomes the daily theme… Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in work; (sometimes too much…) The point is that my life needs to flow from the Life-Source rather than from my own resources.

When things flow from my own resources, I leave God out. My daily function becomes devoid of His life, and full of my own.  You know what I mean, don’t you? We’ve all done it.  And, while I would never call myself an atheist, when I act and function that way – even in service for God – my functionality leaves Him out. 

My focus goes to my own design – rather than My Designer.

My strength is drawn from my own reservoir – rather than from The Well-spring.

My sense of purpose becomes centered in my tasks and achievements – rather than from just knowing Him, hearing Him, spending time.

In that task oriented place, I become the center of the orbit – it becomes about what I need, what I feel, what I think I need to do for God –

What makes us think we can earn this stuff? Or even begin pay it back? 

All that being said – it’s time we all let the Creator of Life help us with our personal oil spills….. What has exploded in your life and left it’s residue on your ability to fly?  Has anything washed up on the shore lately?

Are you enjoying your walk with God?


© 2010 dg/atg. Duplication without permission prohibited.  

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It was a Samsonite case; a good one — and a bargain too! Just $5 at a gargage sale. Not bad for a hardshell suitcase.. it was a perfect match for a poor college student….

That semester, more than forty of us travelled on the ministry tour.  (Almost double the norm — if I remember properly.) Thing was, there was limited room in the storage compartments in the lower levels in the bus.  Our ministry team needed room in the luggage area of the bus for musical instruments and sound equipment. So, our director had limited each of us to one suitcase. (Not to complain, but do you know how difficult it is to keep what you need to only one case, when you’re only twenty years old? And female? For me it was nearly impossible….) 

And then, there were the extenuating circumstances… ( host homes, outlet malls on the highway, etc.) When one travels, one finds oneself — — how shall we put it?  …. acquiring.  Its kind of like that junk drawer in the kitchen.  You know the one:  you open it, and the contents explode. (Does anybody even like that drawer?)

Well, by the time we were half-way through that January tour, it became necessary for me to sit on the suitcase, bouncing on it, over and over again;  squeezing the poor thing closed each morning. The task became more and more difficult as we travelled along. Close to the end of the month, my host home was gracious enough to take me to the store to purchase duct tape.  After all, my poor suitcase only had to make it through a few more days. Sadly, that was the day the $5 bargain latches failed.  That was the day the case popped open, spewing forth my unmentionables and dirty laundry all over the church parking lot. 

It was a very spiritual moment. Honest. Well maybe not……

Which brings me to a discovery I made not long ago .  Over a period of time, I had become increasingly aware of a repeating frustration in my heart.  Busy continually, I thought I was moving forward.  There was a degree of satisfaction in my day-to-day rituals.  But, at the end of the day, barbed thoughts nagged the back of my mind.   In fact, those very expectations began to intimidate me; wearing me down. After a season of days, I felt guilty over “all the things” I was “not doing.” 

Not doing?  All of my moments were filled.  The collections of my days were compressed.

Not doing? Simply put: there simply was no time.

So I sat down and made a list of all of the silent expectations I felt were looming over me, pointing their accusing finger.  I share it here:   

  1. “Get up earlier. You’ll be able to accomplish more.  You’ll feel better about yourself.”
  2. “Get more exercise….  20-30 minutes, three times a week.” 
  3.  “Prepare all of your meals from scratch; processed foods can hurt you.”
  4. “You need to communicate more completely.” 
  5. “Make longer and more detailed lists so you don’t forget.”
  6. “Be in church every time the doors are open. It’s important to show your committment.”
  7. “Send hand-written thank you notes.”
  8. “Take vitamins, and minerals every morning.” 
  9. “Prepare protein drinks and make sure to take your greens every morning.”
  10. “Buy raw and organic foods.” 
  11. “Buy a juicer. Your body will then absorb the nutrients missing in the foods you eat.”
  12. “Make telephone calls instead of writing emails.  People need personal contact.”
  13. “Keep exercising. Sculpt that body.”
  14. “Read the Bible every day, at least one chapter; more… no matter what.”  
  15. “Memorize a Bible verse each week.”
  16. “Show your employer you are a good worker. Stop being late to meetings.”
  17. “Be diligent, always energetic and upbeat.”
  18. “Journal.  Every day — your thoughts, feelings, discoveries.”  
  19. “Keep track of everything God says to you.”
  20. “Keep your environments organized. Emulations of “pack-rat-ivity” are not allowed.”
  21. “Be hospitable. Entertain your neighbors; open your house, your heart, and your home.”
  22. “Read at least one book a month. Maybe two.”
  23. “Volunteer to serve. You need to do something outside yourself.”
  24. “Pursue a project or a hobby. Expand your knowledge.”
  25. “Stay current with the news; remain politically savvy. Research the issues to protect yourself.”
  26. “Keep your cupboards and closets organized; your silverware organized; your home organized.”
  27. “Talk through the deep issues of life with your spouse.”
  28. “Don’t live on the surface.”
  29. “Keep exercising.”
  30. “Pray every day, for at least 30 minutes. Prayer is first foundation in a life of a disciple.”
  31. “Enroll in a class. Keep your mind active and developing.”
  32. “You can get it all done if you just stay up a few more hours.” “You can make up the sleep hours later.”

After the list was finished, I read back over these items, now known as the “Shoulds-List.”  Writing all of those thoughts down had helped to uncover something seeking to hide itself behind other labels in my life.  In actuality, a sense of false guilt, or shame, had been speaking to me; holding up fiery hoops of expectation for me to jump through. 

After the discovery, I thought I’d have a little fun with the list.  Considering each one, I assigned a required length of time to the activities listed.  The discovery I made was amazing. In order to satisfy the “Shoulds-List,”  I would need an additional five hours each day

No wonder I was tired.

Each of us on the planet has a “Shoulds-List.”  We drag it along like my over-stuffed suitcase, as we make our personal Life-tour.  We regularly struggle to squeeze everything back into its confines, hoping the “dirty laundry” doesn’t pop out at the wrong time.  But we’re human. And sometimes, it just does. Sometimes, we just bolster ourselves. We pick up our bootstraps, and grab something to keep the cover on… By the way, do they even make emotional duct tape?

After a season, however, we have difficulty getting that latch to close.  Overwhelmed, we become frustrated.  “I’ll just get up a little earlier,” we tell ourselves, or, “I just need to work a little harder.” 

In the Bible, Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for He  (God) gives His beloved sleep.”  (NKJV)

You are……. we are………  beloved.  Beloved!!

If you are struggling with your God-relationship; if you have thought you had to somehow do more, or be more in order to gain His approval and acceptance; this is the time to allow the Holy Spirit to take you off the hook.

You see, our Heavenly Father never drives us.  He doesn’t push.  He doesn’t pull.  He holds no hoops for us to jump through.  He does not expect us to “find the hidden formula.”  (And just for the record — He’s not mad at you, either. Take it from me…. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t really know His character.)  He is the God who leads. The Greek language calls Him the “Parakletos” — the Helper/Teacher who walks alongside…. 

So let me ask you something…. What’s on your personal “Shoulds-List?”  If you need a place to start, you could look at the list I provided here of the thought patterns I struggled with. Ask God to help you let go of them.  He wants to breathe His Peace, His Mercy and His Healing into the “shoulds” in your life.  You already make Him happy.

You are beloved.  

(C)2010 — DG – Awakened to Grow

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