Hand using a remote control

This morning I listened on the radio to the new song “Control” by 10th Avenue North.  The main line of the chorus, after which the song is named, is telling God “I give you control” (full lyrics here).  I couldn’t help but think as I was listening – is that really what God wants?  Does He want control over our lives?  Does He want to control our every action and every decision?  Given that God’s very nature is relationship (which is, by the way, why we as beings created in His image are made to be in relationship, why we crave and long and search for it, albeit in all the wrong places —  but that’s another post), does wanting control fit?  Is that what you want in your relationships — control?  Do you want to be able to control your wife, or your husband?  Or your parents?  Or your children?  Or anyone really important to you?  Is that really what you are looking for?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not banging on 10th Avenue North (I like a lot of their music).  I think I understand what they are trying to say (at least I hope I do).  But I am increasingly alarmed by how we talk about God, what He wants, how He feels, who He is — and how the way we talk about Him does not reflect The Truth.  We consistently stray from (or sometimes deliberately avoid) using His words to describe Him, and use our paraphrased, often well-intended, but nevertheless anemic and wrong characterizations instead.

God doesn’t want control.  We are given strong evidence of this from the very beginning.  God created man, put him in the garden, gave him a companion, and then gave them what?  A choice.  He gave them everything they needed, and then told them of something they needed to stay away from.  He did the very opposite of taking control; He gave it away, to them.  And He did so, knowing fully (because He knows the beginning from the end), that they would misuse and abuse that control and make wrong choices.  Even when they blew it (and they really, really blew it), God’s answer wasn’t “Ok, give me control back again, you can’t handle it.”  That wasn’t His answer because that’s not what relationship is about.  And relationship is what God is after.

Sadly, in an ironic twist, people would not only misuse the control God gave them, but they would ultimately try to control Him (for some good examples, read the rest of the Old Testament).  God is not some magic talisman for us to wield against the injustices of our lives, or to bring us the blessings we so desperately desire.  This is how the Israelites often treated God, particularly vicariously through their use of the Ark of the Covenant.  Tragically, it is also often how many professing Christians treat God today.  But God neither wants control, nor to be controlled.  Both are antithetical to relationship, and that’s what God really wants.

This presents a dilemma, among others, to the reformers among us, who argue not that God wants control, but that He never actually gave it away even in the minutest details of our lives.  God is most certainly sovereign, and His Sovereign Will will ultimately prevail, but not by Him using the remote control on our lives.  God uses His sovereignty to grant to man the one thing necessary for the kind of relationships we all long for – choice.  We are no more compelled to love God than we are to love each other.  Love has always been a choice, which is why it is also a command in the Bible.  In fact, it’s the greatest commandment, and the second one which is like it; it sums up all the commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).  We choose to love, or not to love.  This is how the earliest Christians understood it from God’s Word (a good study of this can be found here), and this is a clear message of the Scriptures.  Why would Jesus command people to love, or to do all sorts of things, if He knows some of them never will, or even can, because ultimately He controls all of them?  That’s more than weird; it’s perverse.

What God wants is most certainly *not* control, or He never would have given it away.  Rather, by giving it to us, He has shown that what He wants is our love, demonstrated by our faithful , willing obedience to what He has commanded.  He wants to be our delight, the apple of our eyes, our greatest desire.  Giving up control and giving it to God doesn’t make Him that.  Giving up control for too many is really just trying to abdicate responsibility, something which Scripture clearly teaches we cannot do.  We *are* responsible precisely *because* He has given us control.  It’s what you do with that control that matters, and that shows what matters to you.  Giving up our preferences, and our will, in favor of His, goes a long way to communicate how precious and valuable He really is to us.  That’s not giving up control; rather it is exercising it to show love.  It is using our will (given to us by Him) to bend our desires to His will, and doing so joyfully not begrudgingly.  This is what God wants.  This is what we were created for.

Isn’t this what you want in your relationships?  Doesn’t it make you feel loved when your spouse decides to prefer you, and chooses your likes and wants, over their own?  Doesn’t that build trust, and affection, and real connection?  Isn’t this what you want from and for your children?  Isn’t it what you’ve always hoped for in every relationship?

God doesn’t want to be your pilot.  And for the record, He has never been interested in being your co-pilot either, despite what the bumper stickers might say.  Rather, He has mapped the expedition He desires for you and Him, together (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He wants you to choose it over your own.  God wants you to pilot the ship (i.e. “run the race”), but to fly it where He wants to go (“marked out for you”), and to trust that it’s going to be exactly what you need, and that ultimately, it will be worth it.  It’s not love if He’s the one piloting it for you.  I don’t want my daughters to just stop flailing and go limp so I can carry them everywhere.  I want them to walk beside me, and to delight in us being together.  This is exactly what God wants.

So show Him, by using what He has given you – control —  to consistently, gladly, excitedly, choose Him.

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The End Is Near. Again.


It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt.  It also breeds indifference.

There is a lot of discussion on the Internet about current events and whether or not they are tied to Biblical prophecy.  I have to admit, some of it is eerie and can be a bit unsettling.

In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 (all of which I strongly recommend you read), Jesus’ overwhelming message is to pay attention and be prepared.  Pay attention to what is happening, understanding that God will provide signs for us to let us know the time is near, and be prepared for Christ’s return.

What are some of the signs?  Go back and read those chapters if you haven’t already.

“Wars and rumors of wars” and “nation will rise against nation.” (Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:7-8, Luke 21:9-10) Could that be North Korea?  Or perhaps China, or Russia?

What about “nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea”? (Luke 21:25)  Does that have anything to do with three hurricanes in the Atlantic, two creating history as the first two category four storms in that ocean at the same time?  And these right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey decimating the coast of Texas.

What about “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” or “the stars will fall from the sky”? (Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24-25)  That sounds a lot like the great American eclipse – the first of its kind in nearly a century – that recently occurred.  I witnessed it first hand with my family.  The moon was black, and the sun no longer gave its light.  Even the crickets thought it was nighttime.

This eclipse was, by the way, in many areas preceded the week before by meteor showers, visible in the night sky as a plethora of falling stars.

Recently my wife received a text from a dear friend, worried about what all this means and fearful that Jesus’ second coming was imminent.  When she told me of the text, I (somewhat flippantly) reminded her that earthquakes were also a foreboding sign (“there will be earthquakes in various places” – Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11) but that we hadn’t seen those yet.  I awoke the next morning to the news of an unforeseen earthquake in Mexico rating 8.4 on the Richter scale.

I have to be honest.  The news rattled me – more than I expected.

The Internet’s shrinking of the global community made the seeming “America-centric” nature of many of these events not as diminishing.  Anyone watching or reading the news anywhere in the world would know of them.

And then of course, there’s this:  “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:30).


What does that mean?  A sign in the sky about Jesus?  Many have been focused on the sign in Revelation 12 which seems to clearly be a heavenly sign about Jesus’ first coming:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.   (Revelation 12:1-6)

What’s that all about?  A woman, clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, twelve stars at her head as a crown, and giving birth to a male child.

It just so happens that this year, in less than two weeks, a sign exactly like that will be in the heavens, specifically appearing over Jerusalem.  Although it will not be visible to the naked eye since it happens during the day, astronomic calculations and easily accessible computer simulations make it known to anyone who can Google. The constellation Virgo (the virgin) will rise with the sun in the constellation and the moon will rise behind her at her feet.  At her head, the constellation of Leo (the lion), which according to some normally has nine primary stars, will be joined by the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars, all also appearing as stars, and together making a crown of twelve stars at her head.

And if all that wasn’t enough to freak you out, how about this extra tidbbit?  The largest of our planets, Jupiter, will be in an elliptical, retrograde motion orbit, that is, it will have appeared to go around in a small loop within the constellation of Virgo, around her midsection – for 40 to 42 weeks, or around nine months.  Jupiter will exit Virgo between her legs after nine months (or the human gestation period), on the same day as she rises clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, with twelve stars on her head, over Jerusalem.

Not spooked enough?  How about the timing of this event?  The coming of the Son of Man is supposed to be heralded by a loud trumpet (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 11:15-18).  On what particular day does this heavenly sign appear over Jerusalem?  September 23, 2017.  But this particularly year, this day just happens to correspond to an Old Testament Jewish Feast – which is meant to foreshadow Christ – the Feast of Trumpets.  Yes, trumpets.  It also happens on the first day ending the Hebrew year 5777 (that’s three sevens, or three – the number of the Divine Trinity – sevens, or the number of finality and completion).  The Feast of Trumpets precedes another Jewish Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the feast celebrating God coming to dwell with man.  Right after the Trumpets.  On the day that the sun, moon and stars will be telling the story of Christ’s first coming.

Oh, and by the way, all this happens on a Saturday, or the Old Testament sabbath day, the holy day.

So, what does all this mean?  Is Jesus coming on or near September 23 of this year?

I have no idea.  In fact, neither does Jesus (Matthew 24:36)

I fully realize that some of the things foretold by Christ in these accounts have already come to pass.  Some of it is even recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles.  Persecution.  Martyrdom.  The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.  But the Son of Man has not yet come again.

What I do know is this – there have been all these signs at various times throughout history.  I don’t know, however, if they have ever all converged into a single time frame as they are now.  And whether or not these are the mystical harbingers that are foretold in the Scriptures, one thing is certain.  They have together made me take Jesus’ return much more seriously than I ever have.  It has made His words “He is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33) much more real, and urgent, and pressing.

Is Jesus coming in two weeks?  The only certain answer is maybe.  But He may also be coming tonight.  Or tomorrow morning.  Or sometime in October.  Whenever He comes, my responsibility is simple and clear:

Pay attention. Be on guard.  Be awake.  Watch for the signs.


Be ready.

The first time Jesus came, it was to save.  The next time He comes, it is to judge.

In each of the gospel accounts, Jesus closes His predictions of His Return with two stories.  The first is of a fig tree.  His simple point is if we can look at a tree in leaf and know that summer is near, we likewise should be able to see the signs given to us by His Heavenly Father, and know that the time of His coming is near.

The second story is the most sobering.  It is an account of the servants in the master’s house.  This is an allegory about Christians in the Church.  Jesus’ point is crystal clear – don’t grow complacent, don’t be slack, and act as if the master is long in coming.  Don’t act as if you have plenty of time.  If you do, you will be surprised and will not be ready.  And for those in that condition when He comes, His words are grim indeed:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matthew 24:50-51)

Cut to pieces.  With the hypocrites.  Those are the people who claim one thing, but live another.  They profess to believe in God, and to love and follow His Son.  But that’s not how they live.

Is Jesus coming soon?  I don’t know.  And the truth is, it doesn’t matter.  I’m supposed to live every day in sober anticipation of the unchanging truth.  What is that Truth?  That He is coming. 

It is more real to me now than ever.  Whether the concurrence of events happening right now are some kind of cosmic fire drill, or the real thing – the point, the essence of it all – remains the same.

He is coming.

Pay attention.

Be ready.

The question is – am I?

Are you?


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A Tribute to the ONE Who made him

IMG_20170818_230529113Today is a hard day.

Yesterday, just before midnight, our beloved German Shepherd Shadow died. He was nine years old — young in our estimation — and we weren’t ready to say goodbye.  We buried him in our family cemetery early this morning, several hours before dawn.

Romans 1:20 teaches that God has revealed Himself — His invisible and divine qualities — through what has been made, so that we are without excuse.  I have heard it said — and it seems true — that we are unique in the universe as the sole portion of God’s creation who act and will in rebellion against Him.  We do it often.  But the rest of His creation submits itself to Him and always acts in accord with how and for what purpose He created them.  In that respect, every other part of creation somehow perfectly represents some divine or mysterious attribute of our Creator.  They all exist, and they live as they live, to make Him known to us.

Shadow taught us many lessons about and from God.  Here are a few of them that seem particularly poignant today.


Life is short and unpredictable.

Just four short weeks ago, Shadow was frolicking in our river with our children.  He was running and barking and playing.  We even talked about how he was only nine, and still had good years ahead of him.  Then one day that all unexpectedly changed.  We’ve spent the last month, long days and nights, trying to figure out what was wrong and watching him suffer through whatever ultimately took his life.

Life is short and unpredictable.  You not only never know when it’s going to end, but you also don’t know when it will dramatically change.  There is so little we control or understand.

Life is short and unpredictable.  Don’t waste it.  And appreciate every moment you have.

“Pay careful attention then to how you walk, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16


God listens and is faithful.

Cosette (one of our daughters), Andrea (my wife), and I all prayed — independently and without each other’s knowledge, but unwittingly at the same time — that if Shadow was not going to live through his illness, that God would take him quickly, to end his suffering (and ours).  Just moments after each of us uttered our individual prayers, Shadow passed.

While today is certainly a day of mourning, it is also a day of sober reflection on the intimate nature of who God is, and what He desires with us, with me.  I may be surprised by the answer, I may not even like it, but I can’t escape the shocking conclusion that somehow the Creator of the Universe listened — to me, and to us — and then acted in accordance with what we asked.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of Him.” – 1 John 5:14-15


Faithfulness, and Loyalty, and Love are Every Day.

There was not a day, or a moment, in Shadow’s life that he was not excited to see us, wanted to be with us, and eagerly and enthusiastically showed us.  Not a day went by where we were not incredibly important and special to him.  Just a few short days before he died — despite what had to be excruciating pain and lameness — he circumvented the fence around our property and ran the half mile to our swinging bridge just to be with us.

I am convicted that I don’t communicate love this way.  I don’t love this way.  This is not only who Shadow was, but is an unbelievable picture of who God is.  To all of us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.'” – Lamentations 3:22-23


While I am sad and mourn the loss of our friend, I also rejoice and am grateful for the nine years God gave to us with him, and especially for the lessons He has left behind through him.

Thank you Father for all you taught us – and me – through my dog.  I will miss him.

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21


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Virtual Music Studio

Hi, everyone!

For those of you who don’t know, I have begun offering piano lessons in my spare time. I’m writing to you to let you know I just set up an online profile to get connected with more new students in our area. If you’re interested in learning piano, I hope you’ll check out my profile (below) and maybe even book some lessons with me! If you’re not interested in lessons but know someone who might be, would you do me a favor and forward this message to them? I’m currently available for new students and I would really appreciate it!

Book lessons here:

Have a wonderful week!Music Background #1

Grace in Him,








  1. The site that is hosting my online lessons will not permit me to teach students under the age of eighteen unless you register an account on as a parent and then open that up for your child’s use during lesson time.  This demonstrates your consent as a parent to me teaching your child.
  2. Currently, I am only offering online lessons as this is the most cost effective for both parties.  In the future both in-home/studio lessons may be available and I’m looking into that possibility.  If that is your preference please let me know and we’ll work something out.
  3. Music is a gift from God that is universally appreciated and enjoyed.  It is difficult to imagine life, and our world, without it.  Learning to make music should be accessible to anyone, not cost-prohibitive depending on economic status.  While I don’t at all want to diminish the value that music teachers bring to their students (including my own value as a teacher), I desire to make my teaching available to everyone regardless of what you can afford to pay.  This is a ministry and a passion for me.  Unfortunately, which hosts my lessons, does charge a fee from me to make our lesson times available here (the more lessons the less their fee). My initial rate is the minimum that will allow me to submit.   To that end, I submit the following rates for your consideration but ask that if it is a hardship for anyone, please contact me and I will do my very best to accommodate your situation and needs.
  • $15/3o min.
  • $17/45 min.
  • $20/1 hr.


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An Open Letter to Parents


I wrote the below as I was praying and considering the children we spend time with every Sunday night as a ministry outreach of our church.  God makes no distinction in His calling to us all as parents, whether we grew up in church or have never cracked our Bibles.  It expresses what I feel as a father, and what I see and feel as we have been working to disciple and meet the needs of the children in our community, both inside and outside of our church.  

Dear parent(s),

You have an awesome responsibility.  It is a huge blessing, but if you neglect it, it will become an eternal curse.  Jesus said:

 “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!… See that you do not despise or hinder any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 18:6-10)

Do you understand what Jesus is saying?  It would be better for you to die – literally to be drowned like a cat tied in a bag and thrown in the river – than for you to blow it as a parent and fail to teach your children to fear and love the Lord.

Do not abdicate your role to the church.  It is not their responsibility, it’s yours.

Do not abdicate your role to schools.  They are woefully unprepared to teach your children what they need, and they are not the ones who will stand before God at the Judgement to give an account.

You are that person.

Jesus also said:

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”  (Psalm 127:3)

God ingirls swinging bridgetends for your children to be a gift, a reward, a blessing.  It is up to you to train them to become that blessing.  If they are not a blessing (and you know exactly what I mean), then that is your fault.  God expects YOU to teach them obedience.  God expects YOU to teach them holiness.  And God expects YOU to teach them love.  Most of all God expects you to MODEL it for them WHILE you teach it to them.

After all, that’s EXACTLY what He did for you.

So don’t blow it.  Embrace it – with all its terrifying challenges, exhausting days and nights, and exhilarating, chaotic, up and down insanity – knowing that if you do, God will be with you every step of the way.

And you truly will be blessed.


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We wanted to let everyone know that Cosette and Tess are in a production of the Sound of Music at the Bristol Paramount Theater on July 18th in the evening around 8pm.

Keep in mind, this isn’t professional theater, but the kids do well especially given the relatively short time they have to pull together the performances.   The Barter theater uses these programs to help youth develop greater speaking skills and confidence in group settings.  There are often kids there that don’t have much or any previous experience, but our girls have learned a lot and done very well in past performances.

Tess is playing the  role of Maria and she and Cosette will have opportunity to sing some duets together. I’m sure it would be an encouragement for them to see some familiar faces in the audience and we would certainly love to have you join us.

Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at the box office just prior to the show.  There are other plays running all day done by other children and the $5 entry ticket allows all day entrance to all the shows that usually begin around 3 pm.

Let us know if you plan on coming and we’ll look for you or save you some seats.

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A picture that’s worth a thousand words


4d093b98c86c5b36b4427ea887f134d5How does God speak to us?  As we have been going through the book of Acts learning about the early church (you can see some posts on that here) we have thought and talked about this question as a family quite frequently.  One way God speaks that I am sure we can all agree on is through the Bible.   Some other voices of God in our lives are: the Holy Spirit, other people, through praying then listening/waiting, and even through dreams and visions.  The list extends the length of God’s love.

But there is another voice I haven’t mentioned that is so prominent and yet typically overlooked.  In example after example, Jesus illustrates how this oft ignored voice teaches vital truths about Him.  Look at the verses below (they are only a few examples among many).

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”…..”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-2, 5

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”…….”Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:26, 28-30

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  Matthew 13:3-5

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.” Matthew 24:32

…”But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”…..I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:2-5, 11-16


What is the oft ignored voice I am referring to?

From the beginning, God has surrounded us with His handiwork.  The masterpiece constantly on display serves as a reminder of Him.  From the garden to the grave, from a fruit tree to a hewn tree, God painted pictures of perfection and love.  His creation is the voice that surrounds us constantly, persistently calling to all who will listen.  No matter what humanity does the creation never stops pointing to the Creator.

 marylaneanderson_creation13For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  Romans 1:20   

(See also Job 12:7-10, Romans 1:20, Psalm 148:1-10)

Why do I share this?  God gave me a passion to enjoy His creation.  There is something about its voice that speaks to the heart in a way that words cannot.  And at the same time, I feel a desire to express it to the extent that words can.

That being said I would like to share on this blog the joys and lessons that I am discovering in God’s creation.  But even more, I want to encourage you to explore the creation on your own.  There is so much to find once you start looking.

I’m looking forward to learning together as we sit in His classroom!

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Paradise Lost

“There is, among men, a universal longing to go back to the earth from whence they came.  Man will never forget his native place in Paradise lost, nor will he ever cease to yearn for a life of perfect contentment.  The hope that occupies every heart is the secret dream of a Shangri-La discovered where there is an escape from the pressures of this present society.  Each of us, in this insane world in which we live, knows something of the restlessness and the dissatisfaction that create a relentless obsession to escape the treadmill of existence that this society has forced upon us – an existence that has crushed us with pressures and demands that far exceed our resources; a life that often shatters our peace and leaves us like trapped animals, pacing the cage of our circumstances, plotting how to break the iron bands of involvement.  We have all known the frustrations of our self-imposed timetables and commitments that cause us to feel like wheat in the grist mill of an evil system; a system that crushes our hopes, dreams, desires and blows away, like chaff, the highest aspirations of our souls.

As has been said before:  ‘I write with no higher hopes than motivate the rooster at daybreak -I do not expect to be appreciated or even tolerated, but I hope to awaken some to a new day.’  And so, to those who are homesick and do not realize that the “home” for which they are longing is not a geographical location, but a way of life, I sincerely dedicate this small effort.  Especially do I dedicate this book to those whose homesickness will never be cured on this earth.  May we all know the truth and by the knowledge of that truth be set free.”

The above excerpt is credited to H.L Roush in the dedication to his book entitled Henry and the Great Society. 

Before ever laying eyes on this book, I felt intensely this longing for a simpler life.  I wouldn’t have ever been able to explain so eloquently what my heart desired, but I knew I and my family were seemingly running all the time, expending lots of energy, doing lots of things and growing increasingly lonely as individuals and separated as a family.

About 12 years ago, after much wrestling with emotions and each other, we finally gave up our big screen t.v. so that we could spend more time in conversation or reading.  Next, we decided to move to Virginia to pursue a simpler life.  Thirdly we purchased land far away from a city and rather remotely so we could be closer to nature and thereby more in tune with God through His creation.

We did this all before we ever came across this book.

And now, here in Virginia, on our remote piece of land across our rickety swinging bridge, I find myself re-reading this book.  The world’s frenetic pace, technological  advances, more time-saving devices and lots of “stuff” have increasingly crept back into our lives and again threaten to tear asunder the simpler, God centered life we moved here to create.

I am currently about half way through and still I find myself wanting to shout it from the roof tops that this should be required reading for everyone, though I do wonder if anything has changed in me since the first reading that I might now disagree with. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, so without delving into many details, be forewarned that there are some things I remember the author sharing in the last few chapters that I did not agree with Scripturally my first reading, but the overall message of the book reverberates  things I have felt much of my life.

It is one of five books  I have read in my life that has inspired me to change radically.  I hope and pray that you will take the time to read it. It isn’t long in pages, but is is long on wisdom.  May it bless you and motivate you to seek the truly good life which is found in chasing the only treasure worth chasing.

Posted in Andrea's Attic | 2 Comments

What’s Cookin’?

My parents started a blog recently as a way to share Bible studies with others in a format where believers could interact and comment and “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”  Then my sister added her photo and first post to the site.   I had a feeling where this was headed and I was not looking forward to it.  Soon enough my fears were realized:

 You see, we do things together as a family.  So of course I was asked if I would post a blurb too.

I really didn’t want to.

First of all I am terrible with words and when I try to say something eloquently I end up saying it horribly.   And second among other reasons, I desire people’s acceptance and often find myself worried about what people think of me.

So, you may ask, why am I writing this then?

The answer is, that I am trying desperately to defeat that part of me that is really just self -focused and obey the verse in Colossions 3:23 that says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. So please bear with me and look past all my mistakes as I try to deny myself by writing something that will hopefully be encouraging to you all…

My first post is about one of the roles as a young lady in God’s kingdom.  Proverbs 31 shares that a Godly woman rises while it is night and provides food for her household.  Sometimes I have risen at night with my Dad to try to get a deer, but so far we’ve always returned empty handed. 🙂

But cooking…. Well, I love to cook.   I love to be in the kitchen making just about anything that’s edible.  But sadly, I’ve found that not many young ladies my age share my passion. Not to say that everyone has to share my exact passion, the Bible says we are all blessed with different talents.  Romans 12:4 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, yet not all members have the same function.” But I believe that it is important for young ladies to learn things now, so that they can be prepared for life as a Lord willing future wife and mom. So, while cooking might not seem that big of a deal at the present, (although I believe any mom would be grateful for some breaks) it is a HUGE part of motherhood.

Sure you could just do a drive through, or a TV dinner, but is that really nurturing and caring for your body? In First Corinthians 6:19-20 it says: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” So here’s my question. Is it protecting and nourishing the Temple of The Lord to feed it junk?

…All of that is the background for some future posts.  I would love to share some recipes over time that have helped me to grow, and that I and my family love. Not all of them are my own recipes, but nonetheless I would love to help others as I continue learning and growing in knowing how to take care of my Temple for the Lord.

The recipe following is my own personal recipe. It’s called Toltott Paprika (Hungarian Stuffed Peppers). Though it’s fine to eat the day it’s made, I’ve found that it tastes better if it sits overnight…Enjoy!

Ingredients                            IMG_20160209_183419621.jpg

Makes about 6-7 servings

For the filling:

For the sauce:


  1. Preheat oven to 425.


  1. Cook rice according to package directions, set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked rice, onion, eggs, salt and pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried chopped onions, and paprika, along with the tomato sauce. Mix thoroughly, and set aside.
  3. Remove the seeds and veins from the peppers.
  4. Evenly stuff the meat mixture into the peppers filling to the top, make fist size meatballs with the remaining meat mixture. Lay the stuffed peppers and meatballs in a deep casserole dish for later use.


  1. Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Saute the onions until glassy, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the onions.
  2. Add the flour and paprika and cook while stirring for about a minute, add the tomato sauce.
  3. Add the broth as much or little as needed to thin out the tomato sauce* and bring to a gentle boil. Stir while boiling for approx. 3 min.
  4. Pour sauce over the stuffed peppers and meatballs, and cook in preheated oven for about an hour, or until sauce is bubbly and slightly brown.
  5. Serve warm with boiled salted potatoes.

*If using a thinner tomato sauce, you will not need as much broth.

Posted in Tessie's Treehouse | 9 Comments

The Early Church and Me (Part 4 of 4)

(Go back to part 3 of 4)


Our last observation, at least for now, is this:

The Early Church was established in, and built upon, sacrifice and loss. 

It’s often not explicitly spelled out, but it is inescapably and palpably there nonetheless.   In an era where church is often designed to be as comfortable and convenient as possible, I don’t see either of those qualities in the early pages of the Book of Acts.  Comfort and convenience were not only not priorities to the apostles, they weren’t even on the radar.  It’s as if the assumption was this will cost you everything.  Sounds a lot like the person they were following. 

In chapter 2, Jews have come from all over the civilized world to Jerusalem to celebrate the Pentecost.  When the totally unexpected happens and their travel plans are interrupted by the Holy Spirit, and they come to the realization that they completely missed who Jesus was, they don’t just thank Peter for a good message and go home.  They stay.  For a long time.  In fact, they uproot their lives from wherever they were from and make their new home with their new spiritual family.  They gave up literally everything, except whatever they brought with them before they knew they wouldn’t be going home.

It doesn’t end there.  Because there were so many without jobs or many possessions, and because money to shelter and feed everyone was running out, the early believers start selling stuff – lots of stuff – and giving it to whoever had need.  That’s just chapter 2.  Just in case we don’t believe it, or somehow think it was a one time thing, or that just a few people were “that radical”, we find the same language in chapter 4.  “What’s mine is yours” wasn’t just a trite expression; it’s how they lived – all of them.  They weren’t so concerned about what they possessed as what they could give up for the sake of those around them.  We’re not talking garage sales, or yard sales with unwanted trinkets that are polluting our homes.  They were selling their actual yards, and garages, and homes.  Why?  So that their new brothers and sisters wouldn’t have to go home, but so that they could be together.  The amazing thing is none of this comes across as a burden.  Rather it is portrayed as a joy, something they embraced with gladness and sincerity, so that no need would go unmet.

Then in the middle of all this happy selling we find this interesting story about Ananias and Sapphira, a married couple who sell a piece of real estate and give most of the proceeds to the church.  Their story in chapter 5 tells us that they wanted to look sacrificial.  Keeping up with the Joneses wasn’t about having a bigger house, better job, or nicer car — it was about giving more.  In today’s church they would be held up as an example of “radical sacrifice” (can you imagine someone in your church selling their $250,000 home and giving $200,000 to the church?).  The culture of Early Church was so steeped in sacrifice that Ananias and Sapphira were just trying to keep the appearance of keeping up.  Giving that way was normal and common.

And it doesn’t stop there.

It’s one thing when I voluntarily give something up.  It’s another entirely when something is taken away from me.  Yet that is exactly what happens.  It doesn’t take much time at all before the persecutions that Jesus forewarned them about take place.  By the beginning of chapter 4, Peter and John are already spending the night in jail.  Followed by threats.  Followed by more jail, now for all the apostles, in Acts 5.  An angel lets them out (not for their own comfort, but so that they could keep speaking about Jesus – see observations 1 and 2 in prior posts), and they get dragged in again.  This time the result is not more jail, but being flogged and beaten.  Whipped – just like Jesus.  Their reputation is already shot (people were accusing them of drunkenness in Acts 2), and now their health and physical well-being is being taken away.  They will literally have scars for the rest of their lives.

How would I have felt?  “Have I gone too far?  Have I made people too uncomfortable?”  These men rejoiced that they were counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus.  To them, the suffering wasn’t reason to question God, but rather to thank Him.  It was for them an emblem of faithfulness, that what Jesus had said of them was true, and that they were not only loyal to Him, but were becoming like Him even in their suffering.  At the threat of more bodily harm if they keep speaking about Jesus, what do they do?  They keep speaking about Jesus.  Every day.  Without stopping.

Ok, now I’m overwhelmed.  This doesn’t describe my experience of church at all.  Never mind leaving behind friends, family, jobs, and home for church.  Never mind selling my home for needs in the church.  I don’t have a clue what suffering for Jesus is.  Persecution has become wondering what people will think of me if I invite them to church.  It’s something that largely happens in my mind, and becomes an excuse to not talk to people about things eternal.  It is almost never something that really happens in my life.  In fact, I can’t think of a time since I was a missionary (almost twenty years ago) that I have experienced any real persecution in my life, at least not the kind Jesus spoke about.  I get discouraged enough when people don’t want to sit up front, or don’t want to do more than maybe attend church regularly.  I can’t imagine what I would feel if I actually got persecuted like the early Church. 

Church isn’t about what I give up anymore, except maybe some sleep on Sunday mornings.  It’s not about loss.  It’s not about sacrifice.  It’s about the bare minimum I have to do so I can move on to the rest of my week and not think about it until next Sunday.  Church has become about what I think of the service, not what service I think I can give.  It’s about what I get out of the lesson, instead of what I give so that people won’t have less.

Not surprisingly, the Early Church grew.  Three thousand on the first day.  Over five thousand men two chapters later (not counting women and children).  Multitudes of both men and women by chapter five.

Any parent knows that the only way a family grows is through sacrifice.  Children don’t understand what their parents gave up until they become parents themselves (unless of course you’re talking about our current generation where parents have largely abdicated their role to schools, churches, and daycares, so that they don’t have to give up anything, except their kids – but that’s a topic for another blog.)  So it was with the Church.  It grew through loss and sacrifice.  Pain and suffering didn’t thwart the Church, but only emboldened and enriched it, and made its members that more much dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Suffering and loss weren’t things to be avoided.  They were embraced with joy, and with a deep sense of purpose.

Wow.  Again.  And we’ve only just gotten to chapter five.

Before Jesus died, in John chapters 14-16, Jesus prepared His apostles for what would take place after He had returned to the Father.  He told them that they must abide in Him.  He said that they would bear abundant, lasting fruit.  He said that they would be greatly opposed, that they would be hated, and that they would suffer.  He told them that He would send the Holy Spirit to help them, guide them, give them words, and give them courage.  He told them that they could ask the Father anything in His name and He would do it for them, and encouraged them to ask.  And then in John 17 He prayed for their unity, so that the world would know that the Father had sent Him.

This is exactly what happened.  From the very beginning.


To say that our family feels challenged would be an understatement.  God is giving us a wholly new perspective on what it means to be “the church,”  the one Jesus died for.  Now that we are learning these things, the real question is what are we going to do about them.  What will we do to make them true of us?

Please pray for us, our family and our little country church, as we embrace the faithfulness we are seeing in the Book of Acts.


Posted in Mark's Mudroom | 2 Comments