Archive for September, 2010

My TV Preacher Problem

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

Last night as Steve and I were just settling in to bed, we had the TV in our room turned to a Christian network. We don’t watch much Christian television for a lot of reasons, but what this guy was saying really caught our attention. “I see that you have been struggling in the past 90, 60 or 30 days with finances, with your marriage, with your health, with your children or with stress at work.” While I identified with some of that, I also realized that it was a sort of broad range. Surely MOST people have encountered at least one source of pressure in that list in the last one or two or three months. For the Stern home, the past three months have been a mixed bag of tricks. Some great things have happened and we’ve experienced some awesome breakthrough. Some difficult moments have come our way and some really difficult moments. In short, our lives have been pretty normal when held up against the words of Jesus that “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world”. This week, however, has been a very difficult one physically for both Steve and Josiah who have been struggling with health issues. So my ears perked up when this preacher started saying that he had the answer and that today was the day that God was going to turn all of these things around in our lives.

We listened and listened for the “answer”, but he kept going around and around the first mountain. “You have had pressure in the past season, and I’m going to tell you how God is going to set you free from that…” We kept listening and waiting for probably 40 minutes and he never landed the plane so we gave up and went to sleep. This morning I turned the TV on and – behold! – it was the same program and I think it was nearly right where we left off. I believe in the supernatural so I thought that maybe God really DID have something to say to me. He did, but it wasn’t what I thought it was.

Turns out that the way the preacher wants me to find breakthrough in my life – in fact the ONLY way to earn God’s protection, favor and blessing on me and my children – is to go to the phone right now and send the network $300. If I don’t do that, then I can’t expect to ever bust out of this season.

As I listened, I was so sad. In a world that’s dying, we need a real God and not a street thug demanding payment for protection. In a time when pressure really IS intense and love is hard to come by, we need to be more than ever acquainted with the intimate love and compassion of a God who will not, will not, WILL not be in debt to us. I believe in giving and I believe in tithing – with all my heart I do – but I also believe that preachers who use those principles for their own gain are guilty of spiritual malpractice. Does God want my money? I think He mostly wants my heart and money is a good gauge as to how much of my heart He has. But I will not fall prey to tv preachers who want to build a mercenary out of the most merciful God the world has ever known. Its a reproach.

Behold: a God who gives and gives and gives. May our giving to Him in return be a beautiful dance of joy and freedom.


119: Watching the Signs

Posted: September 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

Here’s a series of verses from my beloved Psalm 119 that are built on the same life-saving theme:

119:9 How can a young person live a clean life?  By carefully reading the map of Your Word.

119:10  I’m single minded in pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs You’ve posted.

119:15 I ponder every morsel of wisdom from You, I attentively watch how You’ve done it.

119:16  I relish everything You’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

119:29 Barricade the road the goes to Nowhere; grace me with Your clear revelation.  I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post Your road signs at every curve and corner.  I grasp and cling to whatever You tell me.

I could go on and on about all that these verses mean to me, but I think that it can best be said simply:  pay attention.  God’s sign posts are everywhere; in the Word, in the world, in my spirit, in good counsel.  He lovingly sends these map moments to show us which way to go and if we’ll watch and follow, we could save ourselves a lot of wasted weeks in the Land of Nowhere.

Behold:  clear direction.  It’s beautiful.

Also – here’s my favorite road sign of all time:

Happy Monday,


A week in 119

Posted: September 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

About twice a year, I set aside a week and dive head first into the deep waters of Psalm 119.  One thing really makes this chapter distinct from the rest of the Psalms:  it’s long.  Really long.  However, it’s powerful and it’s beautiful.  No matter what stretch of road you’re on, Psalm 119 has a signpost or a streetlight or a rest area for you.

The first big beam of light I ran into (or did it run into ME?) last week was verse five.

Here it is in the NIV:

“Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!   Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.”

And here it is in The Message:

Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course You set;  then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with Your counsel.

Though 119 is completely defaced in my bible with arrows, stars and verses that are circled, highlighted and exclamation-pointed, verse 5 had escaped all marking in all my previous studying.   I must have read right over the top of it.  This time, however,  it punched me right in the gut.  For the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about regrets.  Steve and I have talked about the money we should have saved, the people we should have reached out to, the times we should have walked in more faith and taken more risks.  I hate regrets…and I think they can easily tie us to the tracks and squash momentum.  Have you ever been having a perfectly lovely evening and suddenly a memory of a mistake crashes into your consciousness, takes you back in time and holds your future hostage there?  I really, really  hate regrets.

So when this verse rolled through, I read it…and read it…and read it again.  Over and over, I let the water of  these words wash wisdom into my soul.  Here are my discoveries and conclusions:

1. He doesn’t just want to save me from sin and then, “See you in heaven, Bo!”  He wants to set my course.  Mark my way.  Plot my future.  He is not just interested in my eternity…He’s infinitely interested in my today.

2. Steady steps don’t really sound that sexy, do they?  Steady.  Plodding.  One after the other.  Doesn’t sound very exciting.  When I look back in life at the places where I walked off course (and there are plenty of examples for me to choose from), it’s usually not because I didn’t know the right way to go, it’s because I got tired of going the right way.  Something else looked prettier or yelled louder or even seemed more spiritual than the road that Jesus had already clearly laid out for me and set my shoes upon.

3.  I love the line “then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life to Your counsel.”  Okay.  This makes sense and I’ve already admitted that I have plenty of regrets from the times that I have not followed the clear counsel of the Holy Spirit.  However – and this is a BIG however – I also have regrets from other things like, “I wish I would have invested in Microsoft when I had the chance.” Did I feel that the Lord’s counsel led me to invest in Microsoft at the time?  Nope.  I don’t feel like I disappointed God in not investing, I just wish I had made a bunch of money.  But this verse doesn’t actually leave a lot of room for that sort of regret, does it?  The only regret it says is okay to take some time to reflect on is the ones that were caused by walking off His course.  I have to say that I have been wasting a lot of time and energy on regrets that don’t fall into this category.  For instance, I have made some mistakes in parenting (especially with my poor oldest daughters) because I was young and still learning.  But I also know I was really trying to stick close to His counsel.  Did I blow it sometimes?  Yep.  But did I ever walk away from His course for growing me into a good mom?  No, I don’t really think I did.  So I could probably afford to let go of the old stuff that only has one purpose: weigh me down.

    So, I am determined first to really know His course for my life by knowing His Word and His presence and secondly to keep walking, even when it’s tempting to go another way.  Finally, I am going to shed some regrets and so that I can lighten the load and walk with a new pep in my step!

    Oh, 119, we’ve only just begun to dance!

    A million ways random

    Posted: September 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

    This post has no goal…no vision…no target or destination.  It’s just a post to get my fingers moving and my brain thinking and my heart talking again.  It’s a “punching through” post;  the kind that you hope will bust through writer’s block and overload and every other silly obstacle that keeps someone who loves blogging from actually doing it.  Sigh.  Weird.

    Since I love lists, I thought maybe a list would be a good way to re-enter:

    1)  My birthday is coming up.

    2)  It will be my 45th.

    3)  I have been trying to fashion a good, solid birthday list since everyone knows that any birthday year that ends in a ‘5’ is a milestone of sorts.

    4)  It’s kind of scary that I’m only 5 years from having a birthday that starts with a 5.

    5)  I’m beginning to fear the number 5.

    6)  So my list so far includes:  cooking gadgets – though I don’t have room in my drawers or cupboards for any more; old books – though I don’t have time to read them right now; grandchildren – though I’m clearly still way too young to have them and an ipad, though I’m morally opposed to expensive technology.  Conflicted?  Yes.  I am a conflicted old lady.

    7)  I like the number 7 and have decided that I will like the year 47 and 57 and 67 and all of my 70’s very much indeed.

    8)  My husband comes home on Saturday and this is really birthday present enough.  Sometimes, he’s gone for a week and it doesn’t feel like a week.  This time, it’s felt like a year or so.  A year beginning AND ending with a 5.  Argh.

    9)  I am trying to learn to do everything I do for Jesus and not worry so much what the rest of the world will think.  This is challenging in ways I’m only now discovering.  Expect many upcoming blog posts to be variations on this theme.

    10)  Want your children and spouse and neighbors to rise up and call you blessed?  Make ’em these biscuits.  Don’t change anything no matter what you feel in your heart is right about heavy whipping cream.  They’re brilliant!

    Okay.  Ten makes a list, right?  And now I’ve busted through the block and am back on the open bloggin road.

    Good to be back,