Friday, December 27, 2013


      It seems each year there is one gift that defines Christmas for me.  God knows how I delight in surprises, so it is often unexpected, unplanned and wrapped in such a way I would never guess its contents.  It is only after the hustle and bustle and dust of the season settles that I reflect on days past and discover this special gift shining above all others--much like that Bethlehem star that led to the Christ-child long, long ago.
      This Christmas of 2013 was no different.
      My gift was dropped into a busy Friday before Christmas--a day that began with travel out of town to my grand-daughter's first Christmas program, returning home and scurrying to make last minute preparations for our family gathering the following day, all amidst my daughter's thirtieth birthday celebration.  Hardly the place nor the time to unwrap a gift as I was driving, eating, packing, buying, loading, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, celebrating.... 
      In fact, I would have missed this gift altogether had it not been for the persistence of my daughter in this being the purpose for her trip to town with her two year old daughter.  The tragic near drowning of our friend's two year old daughter that had left her with numerous impairments and disabilities had struck a tender chord in her own mother's heart as it had in so many others.  So on the downside of a long, busy day, the three of us--mother, daughter, grand-daughter--arrived bearing gifts and were greeted warmly by the same three generations.  Little did I know that I would be the one on the receiving end.
      As I sat on the floor in the middle of bags, bows, tissue paper, toys, torn wrapping paper,  Christmas decorations and two blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girls, God delivered His Christmas gift to me. His gifts, though not tangible, are eternal and transforming, reaching deep within the soul.  As the Psalmist says, "They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold" and always reveal the mysteries of Jesus.  He gives them generously, yet holds them until the heart is right for the pondering and cherishing.  I thought about the first Christmas gift He gave and the crowded inn, the stable, the noise and the "clutter" surrounding the birth of Jesus.  And in that small, crowded, cluttered, noisy room--and in a slice of time from eternity--God revealed Jesus as I unwrapped the gift and beheld true contentment. 
      Contentment is defined as "not desiring something more or different; happy enough with what one has or is; satisfied."  Nothing more clearly describes what I witnessed in that moment.  The Christmas gift of 2013 was all wrapped up in a two year old blonde, blue-eyed child and tied securely with contentment.  May I re-gift it many times over, in any and every situation, all the days yet to be lived for Him.

            "The gifts you sent...are a fragrant offering,
            an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
 Philippians 4:18

Monday, November 21, 2011


"Bargain: something acquired at a price advantageous to the buyer; over and above what is expected." not such a "spiritual" one word title, but hopefully as you read on, you will understand the connection.  Remember...this ministry is about "bridging the gap between the Church and the community."  What better way to build a bridge that connects these two than with bargain shopping?  Especially if the party you are reaching out to is female....and is a mother.....and it is Christmas.....and the bargain basement price is "free!"
On December 7th we will experience one of the two annual "special events" held for GAP participants...the GAP Christmas Shoppe.  If anyone has been bitten by the scrooge bug, I invite you to attend the loud, joyful, frantic and fun chaos that happens for three hours in a basement room on a December Wednesday morning to discover the cure!  Black Friday has met its match! Christmas excitement is in the air....and yes, it is all focused on gifts!  We discovered early on that God gave us a great way to build relationships with ladies and children whom we may never know otherwise, through the giving and receiving of gifts...and yes, that means they are free!  We make no apologies for that and we don't hide the fact that it is used as a way to encourage regular attendance and participation at GAP...(i.e. the participants who may read this post are not suddenly realizing they have been misled). 
The GAP Manual (which was initially comprised in 2004) includes a timeless statement about caring for the children who attend GAP:  "The heart of the GAP Ministry is to reach into homes in the downtown Augusta area with the love of Christ by meeting practical, everyday needs.  As a ministry team, we are convinced that we cannot sincerely connect with single, low-income mothers without offering a safe, loving environment for their children.  The maternal bond varies little from culture to culture: show an interest in and love for her child and you have won a mother's respect as well as her heart."  What mother does not desire to give to her child gifts at Christmas?  If we can enable her to do so, then we have met a need for both her and her child.  We do not give gifts from the GAP Ministry or from Curtis Baptist Church or from individuals who may want to help a "needy family"...and some may not understand that precept.  Yet, it is very simple.  It is not about the gifts at all...but it is about sharing The Gift.  And that begins with building that bridge mentioned earlier...with forming a bond and a friendship...with earning respect and with giving it....with honoring motherhood (regardless of how different it may be from my own style of parenting) and family....and humbly considering others as better than myself, (see Philippians 2:3).
Another statement included in the GAP Ministry manual, that focuses on the Church side of that bridge, is as follows: "We [the Church] have become so complacent and comfortable with this division that we must first prove ourselves by meeting needs and forming relationships.  The needs of young women in our downtown community are all very similar and frankly, quite simple.  In many cases it is the basic human need for unconditional love.  Not many will come to us asking to be introduced to Jesus Christ, yet as we express His love and develop relationships in the GAP ministry classes, we will have the opportunity to see their hearts and to share His hope."
Yes, we do invite donations of new toys for the ladies to "purchase"...(for free)...and those who give these donations may never see or know the results of their gift.  But the givers can trust that many relationships have been created and bonds of friendship have been established which have earned us the right to share a gift offered throughout the entire year, the Greatest Gift of All--Jesus. And all involved come out on the receiving end of that bargain! 

" the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with
the riches of God's grace...."
Ephesians 1:6-7      

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Two months ago we began a new semester of GAP classes with the focus for our Bible study being God's nature...the characteristics and names of our Triune God.  A new attribute is studied and shared each week with the desire to "know God better" by the time we have completed nine months of classes and Bible study together.  I know I must state this every it is not a new thought....but I do realize every time that I open God's Word to teach others that the primary student-learner is myself.  I count it an ongoing privilege and honor that God has entrusted me to teach His Word, but even more so that He finds me capable of learning from Him first in order to do so.  My constant prayer is that I remain teachable and that He allows me to share His Word with others in a simple, yet truthful way that reaches hearts and transforms lives.
We have covered a variety of attributes in the past ten weeks, beginning with the foundational truth of One God in Three Persons, what we term the Trinity. We also, (as for each and every class that is taught), have focused the lessons entirely on God's Holy and inerrant written Word as the final and only authority for our lives.  (More on that in another post to come!)  We have seen God is CREATOR, God is ETERNAL, God is ALMIGHTY, Jesus is THE WORD, Jesus is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, but the one attribute that has continued to impact my own mind and heart is that God is SOVEREIGN.
Sovereignty is not something that I tend to meditate on or think about very often.  It is a word most frequently used in politcal or world events (which I am often not involved personally) or in deep theological debates (ditto).  The word itself can be defined as "the supreme rulership of God" and it is expressed in multiple ways and events throughout scripture. As I looked at God's Word and a handy concordance, I began to see one principle of sovereignty...of God's sovereignty...throughout my study.   The two books that God led me to with the most frequent use of the phrase "Sovereign Lord" (which is what our study is focused on) were the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Amos.  Ezekiel was written to God's people during a time of captivity; Amos to His people during a time of prosperity. Lots of hours of study later, I boiled that principle truth down to this: God is sovereign over, in and through all--regardless of place, time, person or circumstance, in captivity and in prosperity.  We may not understand or like the circumstances we find ourselves in at times; they may be created from our own poor choices or given straight from God's hand to us, but there is one thing we can know for certain--God is sovereign
A phrase that is often heard around the GAP "campus" came to my mind and has taken on new meaning since my study of God's sovereignty.  One participant in particular can discuss a topic, whether a positive one or a negative one, and conclude with the expression, "Hey, it's all good!"
And because God is is.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Defined as "the object for which something exists."  Interestingly enough---and perhaps divine in some way--I have recently encountered several young women who have grappled with the purpose for their own lives.  Oddly, they are 28, 27 and 26 years of age, respectively.  The first has been called to serve in orphanages throughout the world on several different occasions, but the most recent trip resulted in this statement upon her return: "It was one of those times in my life that I felt like I was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be and doing something for His kingdom that He had specifically created me to do."  The second young woman has recently become a stay at home mother to her and her husband's first baby.  She says of that role and new found love:  "It (motherhood) is truly the greatest calling and I'm so grateful God has fulfilled that desire in my life!"  Sadly, the third and youngest paints quite a different picture.  In her brief 26 years, she has been broken and beaten down by life as a single mother of three children, divorced, unemployed and alone.  The description of her life may include these phrases--rocky relationships, eviction notices, screaming children, food pantries, rising gas prices, past-due bills, demanding landlords, job searching, waiting in endless lines to apply for assistance, thoughts of escaping from it all---and the list goes on.  Not a list many of us are very familiar with, but this is what fills her days and many sleepless nights.  Yet--in the midst of it all--"purpose."  Not purpose discovered as in the first two women, but purpose sought.   And that is where we all begin.
What is it that makes the purpose of this life so clear--or unclear?  age? status? education? culture? circumstances? wealth? wisdom? intellect?
One writer of the Bible, centuries ago, asked a similar question.  Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, questioned mankind's purpose--and could not find it apart from God.  And neither can I, nor you.  For God has "planted eternity in the human heart." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  Our Creator, Redeemer, the Lover of our souls, has planted a longing in our hearts that can only be satisfied by Him.  He will use whatever He desires to awaken and stir that longing that leads to Him....and ultimately reveals our life purpose.
Are you seeking purpose for life?  That "object" for which you exist?  Find it in God through Jesus Christ.  And if you already have, help someone else find Him.  Perhaps through a bag of food, a sincere smile, a tank of gas, a listening ear, a job, a nonjudgmental attitude, babysitting, a word of encouragement, approval or love, a prayer, a helping hand...
Seek Purpose.  Share Purpose.  After all, that is why we exist.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Birth Days

It seems my perfectionist and procrastinating personality have caused me quite a problem in posting my first blog on this six month old site.  Always waiting for the "right" time, the "right" way....and neither ever seem to arrive.  A commentary on Samuel Taylor Coleridge recently challenged me in this (sin) nature of mine: "Never did so great a mind produce so little...." (followed by a list of uncompleted tasks)..."He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done.  Coleridge had every poetic gift but one--the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.  In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said himself, 'completed save for transcription.'  But the books were never composed outside Coleridge's mind."
Not that I have a great mind, all kinds of books to be written or great poetic gifts, but I do have a list of uncompleted tasks and I have composed several blogs in my mind..."completed save for transcription."  So I thought this "midnight hour" to be the opportune time to begin in the middle....instead of waiting for ample time to begin at the beginning.  Because today...(or actually yesterday now) a birth day...a new beginning. Notice that is not a compound word, as we are accustomed to using, because I am referring to a day of birth...that initial celebration of new life coming into the world....first breaths being taken.  The kind of birth day I'm talking about is not a physical one, however, but a spiritual one--referred to by Jesus in John 3: "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  ....You must be born again."
Births are a lot on my mind right now as we eagerly, and somewhat anxiously, await the arrival of our first grandchild any day now.  I have been invited to witness that event firsthand by being with our daughter and son-in-law in the delivery room when the time arrives.  And I was invited to be a part of the birth into new and everlasting life today as God so graciously allowed me to watch "the Spirit give birth to spirit."  Wow.  I pray I never lose the wonder and awe of witnessing one being "born again." 

I have walked back through those brief moments time and time again already and marveled at every detail that God orchestrated and anointed.  Perhaps because I have invested so much in our daughter's high risk pregnancy, I began to gain a new perspective on the "process" of salvation.  Much like a physical birth, there is a preparation time that occurs preceding our spiritual birth as well.  It happens for all of us, whether or not we are aware of it or acknowledge it.  Yes, when the time is right and the "forming" process complete, there is that single moment of rebirth, but there are moments, if not months, of spirit preparation before that event takes place.  Just as I have watched the changes in our daughter and unborn grand-daughter take place over the last eight months, I have watched for several months this middle-aged mother slowly being changed "from the inside out."   God has given me a front row seat to observe her heart's soil being prepared to receive the seed of the Gospel so it would take root and grow and bear fruit, (Luke 8).  It began with subtle changes in her personality and demeanor...a previously boisterous personality became more focused and subdued.  Still the fun-loving nature and easy-to-love person, yet a more serious side emerged.  The masks of protection began to fall as she became vulnerable to the tilling of her heart soil.  She, who had been invited and encouraged to attend GAP for a number of years, became a "never miss a Wednesday" member who also faithfully brought friends to join her in the study of God's Word each week.  She began to delve into the Bible on her own and experience a hunger to know more about God and His Word.  A very strong desire to obey Him preceded that transforming moment today.  After laying out the list of reasons that had previously convinced her of her salvation (i.e. go to church, study the Bible, try to live right, etc.), her spirit gave in to the Holy Spirit's work of conviction as she expressed, "I just feel like something is missing."  There it was.  That moment in the process of salvation that acknowledges our need for a Savior, a Redeemer, the One who is the Giver of abundant and eternal life, our Living Hope, the One who fills completely that void in all our hearts.  That moment that was the end of the preparation time and the beginning of the new birth!  And God invited me to be there. A new, fresh, pure, holy life breathed in eternal life for the very first time as "the Spirit gave birth to spirit." 
Almost nine years into this ministry, it is not the middle, nor the end, of the story....but still only the we continue to celebrate birth days.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"    
2 Corinthians 5:17