Storm Clouds and Silver Linings


The storm sweeps in suddenly, swaths of torrential rain reeling across the neighbor’s roof as the wind shudders fierce. Into the basement we flee, the boys all a tizzy.

“Do we get cheese? Do we get cheese?” Rowan squeals, and I am puzzled until I remember that the last time the tornado sirens blared, Brad had doled out mozzarella sticks as we piled into the closet beneath the stairs.

But then, as quickly as it gusts in, the storm fizzles to a smattering of raindrops and bolts jagged across dramatic sky, leaving a trail of tree limbs, severed branches and dangling wires in its wake.

...I'm over at Ginny's place today. Will you join me there for the rest of the story?

Oh! And will you come back here Friday to read my LAST post in the Shop-Not Chronicles? That's right, today is Day #365 in a year of not shopping!

*blows trumpet, throws confetti, cheers wildly, pages through September issue of In Style*

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Loving Frankenstein

I’ve been writing a monthly faith and spirituality column for the Lincoln Journal Star for nearly two years now, and for each column I write, I get exactly one online comment from the same person. We call him Frankenstein around here (on account of his profile picture), and I can report exactly how many positive comments Frankenstein has made on 21 columns: three.

Yes, I keep track.

Frankenstein is an atheist, and month after month he criticizes me for my Christian beliefs. He is not kind. His responses are nothing short of a diatribe rife with anger, disdain and contempt, each and every month.

I know I shouldn’t go online every month to read his response, but I can’t help myself. Every time it’s the same mean, condescending attitude, and every time I react the same way: I rant and rave and vent to my husband. I complain that Frankenstein is a big, fat pain in the neck and an irritating schmuck. And then I forget about him until the next month, when the cycle repeats again.

This morning Pastor Sara preached on Romans 12:9-21, and these verses in particular:

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them…Never pay back evil with more evil…never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.” (Romans 12:14, 17, 19).

Never once has it occurred to me to pray for Frankenstein. Never once have I asked God to bless him, to transform his heart, to breathe belief into his soul. No, I’m too busy cursing Frankenstein to pray for him. I’m too busy complaining about him to consider that he may need my blessing rather than my ire.

It’s ironic, really. I was a non-believer for a long time, and while I never outwardly criticized or denigrated believers, I suspect some of my inner thoughts weren’t all that far from Frankenstein’s. I know part of me felt smug and self-satisfied and yes, even disdainful. I know part of me felt like I was better – smarter, worldlier – than believers. In light of that history, you’d think I’d be more empathetic to Frankenstein. But I’m not. Instead I’ve simply turned 180 degrees and focused my disdain on him.

It’s so easy to read Paul’s advice in those Romans verses and agree with it philosophically. But put an actual face, a real-life enemy, behind those words, and suddenly, Paul’s suggestions sound just plain crazy:

“Don’t curse Frankenstein, but ask God to bless him instead? Feed Frankenstein, give him something to drink? Like in my own home, at my own table?” I imagine setting out the good china and the cloth napkins, preparing a fancy dinner and inviting Frankenstein to sit across from me at my dining room table. I roll my eyes and snicker at the improbability of it.

Really? Does Paul really expect that this kind of love and forgiveness are possible?

“It goes against human instinct, doesn’t it?” Pastor Sara admitted this morning. “And it doesn’t even feel good sometimes, this loving our enemies,” she added. “But this forgiveness, this kind of love, it will change your life.”

It’s extreme, this love. It’s unfathomable. But that’s exactly what God wants from us. And with him, all things are possible. Even, perhaps, loving Frankenstein.

What about you? Have you truly ever been able to find it in your heart to forgive and love an enemy? And if so, how did you get there?


And linking with Jen and the Soli Sisters:





Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. [Please include the link in your post, so that we can share the community with other readers and bloggers!]

Remember to include the link to your post down below...not your general blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post if they come by here later in the week.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime until Wednesday at midnight to link up.

Be sure to come back on Thursday for the Hear It, Use It Round-Up -- a new feature of the community. I'll highlight a handful of posts each week and encourage you to visit, soak up the lessons and leave a postive comment.

I love hearing what you have to reveal each week about how God is speaking to you through his word. And be assured, although I may not leave a comment, I do read each and every one of your posts and am so very grateful for your participation here!

Read more...

Garish Stripes and Glory in Grit

I don't like messy. Sometimes I simply wish my house were always neat, with every item properly in its place, counters clear, blinds hanging perfectly level, dishtowels stacked neatly in a drawer, bedspreads pulled taut and ready for the quarter test.

Sometimes I wish I didn't find soccer balls in the bathroom.

And Skittles under the front seat.

And plastic Great Western Bank frisbees dangling high in the crabapple tree.

Sometimes I wish the front of my house looked like this: 


Instead of festooned with hand-made, precariously hung bird feeders...


and a rickety chair with a newly broken slat (and no one claiming responsibility, of course).


But then, just I’m when up to my eyeballs in balled-up, inside-out dirty socks in the entryway and dinosaurs on the dining room table and half-inflated pool tubes peeking from beneath the spirea bushes in the backyard...they offer this.






And yes, the yellow swallowtail caterpillars with the garish stripes were indeed traipsed into my kitchen.

And yes, I did hurry the boys, each with a fancy worm dangling from his finger, out the backdoor.

But I was glad, if only for a moment, that the boys are boys, in all their sloppy, stinky, messy boy ways. Because when I stop to look and listen, they always show me that there’s glory to be discovered, even amidst the grit.

Where are you seeing God's unexpected glory today?



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The Hear It, Use It Weekly Round-Up


Greetings! I hope you all are having a fantastic week! I'm back today with the Hear It, Use It Weekly Round-Up, where I spotlight a few posts that grabbed me from the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday link-up community. I'm delighted the community is growing and so grateful to read your stories of how God is working in your lives.

Here are my post picks for this week. Drop by and pay them a visit if you can!

"Your Father Knows What You Need Before You Ask Him" at Twixt Downs and Seas -- I've been thinking a lot about patience lately, especially as it relates to the publishing process, so this post by Twiz over in the United Kingdom about discerning God's will and awaiting it patiently spoke straight into my heart (plus her story has a happy ending, and we all love a little of that!). Thank you, Twiz friend, for telling me exactly what I needed to hear.

"How to Pack for Africa" at Everyday Ordinary Dawnings -- I think of all the posts I read this week, this one by Dawn about how God's word is woven into her husband's and her family's lives, was the most powerful. This line: "This is what a bible looks like when a laid-down life intertwines with the Word." And this: "This is what you pack in an American suitcase to bring to a third world country that is desperate and poor, sick and dying, in need of hope and good news. You pack your own story intertwined with His that is bursting at the seams to be told." Dawn weaves a story with eloquence and grace -- don't miss this post.

"Making the Complex Simple" at Linda's Patchwork Quilt -- The title of Linda's post alone grabbed me! I've been thinking more and more about the Holy Spirit these days, and Linda's description of how the Spirit works breathed new understanding into what's always been a mysterious entity for me. And I loved her final line: "I read someplace that we have all of the Spirit we will ever need. The question is, how much of me does He have?" A very good question indeed.

"Lost No More" at I Wonder as I Wander -- Dave takes us on a little trip to discover the illusive Brown Booby. And no, I'm not being crass! Want to find out what in the world a Brown Booby is...and what in the world it has to do with God? (hint: Dave is a naturalist). Read on!

"Of Pride and Pall-Bearers" at Wide Open Spaces -- Charity writes so honesty about the apprehension, anxiety and loss of control that often accompany illness and surgery and describes the process, and relief, of handing over control to the one and only true planner.

Happy reading!

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Branded a Buffoon

I majored in English instead of marketing for a reason. I’m not business-savvy. I don’t like numbers – even ones you dial. Brand management, product placement, demographics, market share? No thank you (in fact, I had to Google those terms simply to compile a decent list).

So I read Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media in one sitting this weekend and learned two very important things:

1. I have done nearly everything wrong relating to marketing, branding and social media.

2. Since I’m still a newbie in this process, it’s not too late.

Take, for instance, this tidbit from Lamb about using your book title as your brand:

“HUGE, HUGE, HUGE mistake.”

Oops.

I titled my blog, my Facebook fan page, my domain name, my Twitter identity and even my Google sign-in "Graceful" -- after the title of my memoir, of course…which is not titled Graceful anymore (for the record, it’s called Leap Year…but that will probably change, too). That’s the problem with using your book name, or any other phrase for that matter, as your brand. Book titles change. In fact, a friend asked me the name of my book this weekend and I couldn't remember. Not a shining moment, I admit -- but it's because I still think of it as Graceful.

Turns out, I am the brand – me, the writer, not my book. Who knew?

The problem with this, of course, is that I don’t consider myself a writer. I don’t define myself that way, at least publically. When people ask what I do for employment, I tell them I work for Nebraska PBS and NPR, which is true…but it’s only half the story. The other 25 or so hours of my workweek I write and do writerly things like tweet and stare out the window.

Honestly, it still makes me cringe. Like if I call myself a writer I’m trying to be all elitist and artsy and creative. Like I should be sitting in a bar with a pint of Guinness, a ragged notebook and a fist-full of hand-rolled clove cigarettes. Or tucked into an isolated log cabin with wolves howling in the distance as I churn out brilliant prose.

In reality, I glance to the left of my desk here in Nebraska and gaze upon a thigh-high pile of Lincoln Logs, Bristle Blocks and Hex Bug tracks topped by a plastic garbage truck that bellows “Yummmmm! I love trash!”

My reality doesn't exactly match my expectations.

Anyway, back to the story…when I got to the part in Lamb's book where she talks about author bios, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Whew, at least that’s one thing I don’t have to re-do,” I figured.

Yeah. Wrong again.

When I reviewed my various bios – from the one that was listed here on this blog and the one included in my book proposal to the one I typically send to editors and places I guest post – I realized that none of them include the descriptor “writer.” Oh, I tell people I have two unruly boys and a husband who loves Moby Dick. I tell people what church I attend, and that I love to take pictures and that I schlep my body around the running path occasionally and that I fold SpongeBob briefs. But do I define myself as a writer?

Nope.

This is the part of the story in which Brad peels me off the office ceiling and plunks me back in my desk chair.

And so here I am, neck-deep in re-branding myself as “writer.”Which is why I purchased my very own domain name: MichelleDeRusha.com. Doesn’t that sound fancy? [don't worry, it just goes to the same-old blog].

And I launched a new Facebook fan page: Michelle DeRusha, writer. [yes, cringing a little bit].

And I am rewriting all my bios to include the fact that I am, inconceivably, a writer. [check out the new profile bio up there in the right-hand corner...it sounds rather writerly, doesn't it?] 

And so I’m coming to ask you, yes again, if you would please consider “Liking” my Facebook fan page. I know, I know, we already went through this – but that was the Graceful Facebook fan page…alas, the wrong brand. I think (hope, pray) I am doing it right this time [you can click on the Facebook badge in the sidebar, or you can simply click here]. Thank you, thank you!

Are you worn out yet? Yeah, I am too. But just think of how much you're learning from my branding buffoonery!

And if you want to learn more: buy Kristen Lamb’s books and read her blog. I finished We Are Not Alone this weekend and am now onto Are You There Blog? It’s Me Writer, which is just as good or better. You may need a loved one to scrape you off the ceiling when you’re done…but it will be worth it in the end.

So how about you? Have you ever given serious thought to branding yourself as a writer? Have you ever made a bunch of neophyte mistakes like me?

Read more...

Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: The Miracle of Church


I’ve been a member of my church here in Nebraska for 10 years. But I wasn’t always a “member,” if you know what I mean. For a long time I simply showed up out of obligation.

When our kids were very young, Brad and I decided that it would be a good idea to find a church and enroll them in Sunday school. So we went church shopping, which entailed visiting three or four churches in town. We picked Southwood for two reasons: It was close to our house, and it was big, so big that we could blend in easily without being noticed or, worse, targeted to "get involved."

I sat in the last row of the sanctuary with my head up against the back window a couple of Sundays a month for three years, yes years, before I began to turn back toward God and church.

I used to think I chose Southwood. Now I know that God chose Southwood for me.

He knew Southwood would offer both a quiet, unobtrusive environment to grow my faith, and a community that would gently nudge me when I was ready to take the next step.

You see, I’m not a risk-taker, and God knows that. He knows I love the same-old, same-old; that I’m comfortable in my routines; that I don’t like to step out of my comfort zone. He knew I’d show up at 8:30 every Sunday morning, attend a service for 45 minutes, and then exit out the front doors without a backward glance. He knew I would never step into a soup kitchen or volunteer to help underprivileged kids learn to read, or rake an elderly widow’s front yard on my own.

He knew I’d concoct a half-dozen excuses for why I didn’t have the time or why those experiences didn’t fit neatly into my life or why someone else was better suited to do those kinds of things.

He even knew what my answer would be when Pastor Sara suggested I join a small group.

“Yeah, sounds great; I’ll definitely think about that,” I told her politely, with absolutely no intention of ever joining a small group.

Talk about God on a Friday night with a bunch of strangers? Sign me up for a root canal instead, thank you very much.

Of course, within a day of that conversation with Pastor Sara, I had an invitation to join a small group in my in-box from Kim, a stranger who would become a close friend and spiritual comrade.

And those strangers who made my palms sweat? We’ve been meeting for four years now. We’ve walked through grief, joy, questions, doubts, celebrations and defeats together. We’ve served food, scrubbed floors, pulled weeds, distributed bread and picked up trash together.

They’re not strangers anymore.

I used to think that church wasn’t a necessary part of the faith. Now I know that for me, at least, it’s essential. I know that even with the best intentions, I wouldn’t serve on my own like I do when I am part of my church community. Frankly, it’s harder to say “no” when I see the email from Nicole announcing our small group’s serving project. Left to my own devices, tomorrow is always a better, more convenient day to sign up.

This morning we read from Acts 2, in which the disciples and Jesus’ early followers gathered to share meals, fellowship and prayer:

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 2:42-43)


All those years I showed up at church and sat in the back pew, I had no idea that a life-changing transformation was taking place. Now I know. The Holy Spirit was at work, reforming my heart, breathing life into my spirit and using dozens of people around me to make it happen.

Today, I look back with a deep sense of awe at the power of God and the miracles his church has brought to my life.

What about you? How has being a member of a church impacted your life and your faith? Do you think church is a necessary part of faith?


And linking up with Jen and the Soli Sisters:





Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to include the link to your post down below...not your general blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post if they come by here later in the week.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime until Wednesday at midnight to link up.

Be sure to come back on Thursday for the Hear It, Use It Round-Up -- a new feature of the community. I'll highlight a handful of posts each week and encourage you to visit, soak up the lessons and leave a postive comment.

I love hearing what you have to reveal each week about how God is speaking to you through his word. And be assured, although I may not leave a comment, I do read each and every one of your posts and am so very grateful for your participation here!




Read more...

To Be and See


I’ve been called “intentional” more than once. I didn’t know what that label meant until a friend kindly explained. Turns out, it means that when it comes to faith (and pretty much everything else in my life), when I decide to make a change, I pursue the proper measures to ensure it happens.

Now that I know what it means, I’d say I’m intentional to a fault. Most of my spiritual growth is carefully planned and mapped out, with goals to establish, accomplish and check off.

For example, when I decided my inclination toward materialism and my personal spending had spiraled out of control, I launched the year-long Shop-Not Project. [only 5 days to go on that, by the way!]

When I wanted to learn to see more of God’s gifts in the everyday, I began a gratitude list and joined Ann Voskamp’s community.

When I thought I should read the Bible and pray more regularly, I set my alarm an hour earlier every morning to do it.

Even my God in the Yard study is intentional: every day I sit outdoors in the same spot for at least 15 minutes in an attempt to reconnect with God in nature.

To say I am intentional is a marked understatement. I love a plan. I thrive in structure. I am militantly disciplined.

And there’s nothing wrong with intentionality per se – in fact, it’s opened up new spiritual avenues for me and has grown my faith in ways I never anticipated.

Yet it’s also a matter of balance. Too much intentionality – too much planning and doing and checking-off – can be as detrimental as never taking any action at all.

L.L. Barkat writes about this obsessive intentionality in Chapter Two of God in the Yard, when she quotes the Renaissance monk Brother Lawrence:

“We search for stated ways and methods of learning how to love God, and to come at that love we disquiet our minds by I know not how many devices; we give ourselves a world of trouble and pursue a multitude of practices to attain a sense of the Presence of God.”

I’m beginning to realize that while this God in the Yard study began as a discipline, it’s slowly transformed into something more amorphous.

At first I rankled against the free-form time. I felt compelled to do something in those 15 or 20 minutes; I struggled to simply sit and observe. For a short time I even made lists of what I saw in the yard during my morning time: the cardinal fledging receiving a bit of worm from its mother; the squirrel performing acrobatics in the magnolia tree; the tiny spider unfurling a glinting strand. Other mornings I couldn’t stop my brain from whirring: I wrote blog posts in my head; I obsessed over my to-do list at work; I planned a sequence of tweets to schedule for the day.

Finally after a couple of weeks of battling my innate inclination to multitask, I learned to just sit. And I’m still just sitting, 15 minutes every morning. Some mornings I am better at this than others. I admit, I still sometimes write blog posts in my head during my outdoor time. But still, it's progress.

I embarked on the God in the Yard study in an attempt to carve out a technology-free space in my life. I aimed to find balance amidst the barrage of media and to quiet the clanging for a short while each day. What I’ve found in the last several weeks, though, is an unexpected gift. My morning yard-sitting has opened up a space to be – a space unhemmed by goals and plans and lists. And in that space, in that being, I am learning to see.


This post was written as a response to the Week 2 exercises in L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard. Interested in the sitting study? Read more God in the Yard posts here. And check out the book on Amazon.

What about you? Have you ever embarked on a new project or study with a certain goal in mind, only to discover an entirely unexpected benefit along the way?

I'll be linking up this post with three Monday communities:

Laura's "Playdates with God" at the Wellspring:



L.L.'s "In and Around Mondays" at Seedlings in Stone:

On In Around button

And a new community I just discovered...Richella's "Grace Imparted":

Imparting Grace

Read more...

The Hear It, Use It Weekly Round-Up


Welcome to the "Hear It, Use It" Weekly Round-Up!

I'm delighted to be able to feature these posts here this week. I'm sure you, too, read many in the community that spoke straight into your heart - isn't it amazing how God chooses to connect with us individually, exactly where we are in life and on our spiritual journeys?

And a huge thanks to all of you who post your thoughts, come by to read and visit others in the community to leave encouraging comments. I never expected this community to grow in the way it has, and I have you to thank for that!

So...some post picks for this week -- if you can, hop over and pay them a visit if you haven't already and leave them a little comment love... 

"God's Thumbprint" at Beautiful Mommy Feet -- I love how Melissa takes the subject of moving -- and all the accumulated junk that goes with it -- and applies it to what we might consider the extraneous "junk" of our own selves.

"A Growing Faith: Lectio Divina" at Healthy Spirituality -- Every week Jean amazes me with her ability to take a verse, dig into it and extract its essence. This week she reminds me through the story of Abraham and Isaac that sometimes we "spend too much time longing for the end results and miss the main ingredient."

"Period, Space, Space & Other Old Habits" at Is That You, Lord? -- Shelly reminds me to look and listen for what God is trying to tell me, even in the mundane of every day: "More often than not - whatever I'm learning in the physical usually parallels something spiritual God is trying to show me" -- and even when it comes to breaking old-school typing habits!

"Were Jesus' Prayers Answered?: Eternal Life" at Manifest Blog -- Stephen delves deep into theology, but stick with him...this post (part 5 of 5 -- and I admit, I have not read all the posts in the series), explores John 7:3. Stephen's conclusion that eternal life begins right here, right now grabbed me hard.

"Pink Sparkles Close to God" at Tcsoko's Blog -- Tracey's post left me asking myself, "Do I keep God at arm's length?" She's a loyal linker in the "Hear It, Use It" community, and I love that she always leaves me thinking long after I click away!

"A Light in the Darkness" at Tillicum Daily Photo -- I was riveted by Christina's story of worship in the midst of spelunking, and she writes beautifully about God's holiness penetrating the darkness with an intense light (plus her photos are stunning!).

And if you read a "Hear It, Use It" post that knocked your socks off, leave a link or mention where you read it in the comments and tell us why it spoke to you.

Read more...

The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Stone…or, Why I Should Not Let My Six-Year-Old Watch Harry Potter


In my defense, we are old, Brad and I. Our hair is greying. Our joints ache. We often drift off during pre-bedtime book reading…even when we are the ones reading. Our resolves are faltering. We should have started having babies when we were 23 – although we hadn’t even met then, so that would have been tricky.

And then there’s Rowan. He’s a red-head you know. And that means he got three extra doses of persistence, stubbornness and down-right pig-headedness. The kid simply wears us down.

So when he begs to board Hogwart’s Express, I know the answer should be no. I know this is not a good idea. But I am weak, and I am tired. And Rowan is willful.

So we agree to let him watch Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone. And this, in the end, is unwise.

All proceeds smooth like butter for the first four-fifths of the movie. Until it’s revealed that Voldemort is growing out of the backside of Professor Quirrell’s skull, that is. This oddity really does not sit well.

I glance over at Rowan as Voldemort’s green, misshapen face hisses and writhes from the screen. Thrust against the back of the couch, neck cords strung taut, Rowan is physically recoiled from the television.

“Rowan? You okay, honey,” I ask him, leaning in close.

“Oh yeah, yeah yeah. I’m not scared. No no, I’m not scared,” says Rowan, not taking his eyes from the screen.

“You sure, honey? ‘Cause you kind of look a little scared pressed back into the couch cushions like that.”

“Yup, I’m sure. I’m not scared at all.”

Fast forward to 12:35 a.m.

And 2:48 a.m.

And 3:36 a.m.

The first two times he appears at my bedside, materializing out of the darkness like Nearly Headless Nick, I am gentle and patient, really I am. I mean, it is kind of my fault, right? After all, I let him watch the movie because I am weak and easily manipulated.

But three times? Three wake-ups? Three specter-like appearances at my bedside, whining about Voldemort and green faces and the creeps? Have I mentioned how old and tired I am?

“If you don’t get back in bed right this second and stay there for the rest of the night, I’m going to switch off the hall light, close your door and command Voldemort to slink out from the bottom of your bed and cozy up next to you on your pillow!”

Okay, so I don’t really say that. But the temptation is fierce. The words begin to dance off my tongue. I feel my eyeballs begin to roll back into my head. But I don’t say it.

Instead I stomp Rowan back to his room, threaten the hall light turn-off and door-close, and then huff back into my bed in a rage.

“We’re done with Harry Potter,” I growl to Brad. “Totally done. Till he’s like 46. He can watch The Chamber of Secrets when he’s 46.”

And the next day, I am so cataclysmically crabby, I suspect Voldemort has morphed onto the back of my head.

Have you ever let your kids do something against your better judgment?

Read more...

Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Making Disciples


When I think about Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), I get a pit in my stomach. I see me standing on a downtown Lincoln street corner proselytizing with a Bible in one hand and a magic-markered placard in the other. Or I imagine slinking up to a co-worker at the restroom sinks to inquire, “Have you proclaimed Jesus as your personal savior?”

During this morning’s reading and sermon, though, it occurred to me that Jesus’ Great Commission doesn't require that I evangelize to strangers or acquaintances per se. Rather, he simply says this:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Sure, Jesus intended that we spread his gospel globally. But he certainly didn’t intend that we spread his teachings at the expense of those closest to us.

As I read these verses from Matthew this morning, I realize that my most important evangelical role may be in how I influence the people under my own roof, rather than the people who pass through my life at arm’s length.

I grew up in a largely irreligious home. Though I was raised Catholic and went to Mass and catechism every week, God stayed firmly ensconced within the walls of my church. My parents didn’t ever mention God or Jesus. We didn’t pray together before meals, in the everyday or even in times of crisis, and we didn’t discuss spiritual topics like Heaven or the Beatitudes or the Ten Commandments. I’m not blaming my parents for this – they were raised the same way by their parents. It was simply the way it was done.

I’m grateful that my church has given me the tools to weave faith into the everyday comings and goings of our household. I’m pleased that my kids are comfortable asking questions about faith and exploring God’s presence in the everyday. Granted, the questions are challenging and often make me squirm (just last night, for instance, Noah asked me why it’s so hard to love God as much as he loves his mom and dad – big gulp), but I love the fact that they aren’t afraid to ask. I love that a faith dialogue exists in our home.

I’m also grateful that God himself has given me his words to guide me in teaching my children to love and serve as he wishes.

Yes, I fall short. Daily.

No, I often don’t serve as the best spiritual role model. My actions don’t always mirror my words or his.

Yet I frequently recall these verses from Deuteronomy:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

And I aspire to live them out, building faith and making disciples in the minutes and hours that comprise our everyday.


Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to include the link to your post down below...not your general blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post if they come by here later in the week.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime until Wednesday at midnight to link up.

Be sure to come back on Thursday for the Hear It, Use It Round-Up -- a new feature of the community. I'll highlight a handful of posts each week  and encourage you to visit, soak up the lessons and leave a postive comment.

I love hearing what you have to reveal each week about how God is speaking to you through his word. And be assured, although I may not leave a comment, I do read each and every one of your posts and am so very grateful for your participation here!


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Down to the River


We exit the interstate and head north on two-lane roads where drivers in pick-ups lift a single finger from the steering wheel to wave. We laugh because Brad is always late with his response, flailing a hand toward the windshield after the truck is half-passed. They understand -- our mini-van tells them we're from out of town.

I announce the population that's posted on each green sign: Broken Bow, Anselmo, Dunning, Thedford -- most towns barely top 200 residents. We marvel at living amongst so few. "What do people do?" I wonder aloud. I imagine church suppers, backyard barbecues, the 4-H Club.

The land between towns unfurls like a billowing sheet, speckled with cattle lazing beneath brittle cottonwood trees, windmills blades blurring over watering holes, heat shimmering a mirage on the horizon. The clouds hang low, and I lay my book aside, unable to take my eyes off the sky.




We leave a cloud of dust along barbed wire and rutted dirt, and when we round the corner, we see our cabin tucked into ponderosa pine. Cones crunch under tires. A gaggle of wild turkeys scurries by, flurry of feathers, heads bobbing.




At dusk we duck as bats swoop toward the porch where the boys straddle the log rails, bare feet dangling. A doe tiptoes amidst knee-deep grass, spotted fawns in her shadow. The Tom turkey with the wiggling wattle hisses and flaps feathers at the fawn, and she leaps startled to her mother's side.

In the morning as the sun peeks over canyon walls we push off muddy banks and float down the silty river. Water cool on toes, I curl on my side and watch grass and birch and pines glide by, churning stream singing a symphony over river rocks.




We sit cross-legged on rafts, eat salami and provolone on wheat and Oreo crumbs and tell the boys about Huck Finn on the Mississippi. Some of us stay dry, trailing just tips of fingers or dipping sandaled toes.

Others prefer the full-immersion experience.






Gemstone dragonflies catch a free ride beneath trestle bridges, past spring-fed falls. Drowsy under hot sun, we quiet, resting heads into the crook of warm arms, one eye open to glimpse what waits around the next bend.



As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good ol' way
And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord show me the way!

O sisters let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
O sisters let's go down
Down in the river to pray
Alison Krauss

Counting gifts with Ann:


621 Wild turkeys bobbing
622 Mama deer and two fawns
623 A log cabin
624 Tubing the lazy river
625 Two boys on big swings
626 Evening light on hayfields
627 Big sky, big clouds, one lone tree
628 Sparks General Store (town population: 8)
629 Watching the river bank roll by
630 Humming Down to the River to Pray



* Photos from the Niobrara River and Heartland Elk Guest Ranch, near Valentine, Nebraska.

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What Will They Remember?


A couple of times each summer when the thermometer rockets past 90 degrees we take the kids to the city pool. It’s not my favorite summer pastime – tanned bodies packed into the churning water, heat blasting off sun-baked concrete, Bomb Pop wrappers summersaulting past in the dry wind. As I spread striped beach towels on burning pavement and hand out goggles, I try not to think about all those diapered babies with whom I am about to share the pool.

We don’t belong to The Knolls or Hillcrest or Firethorn, the clubs with the fancy names that dot the outskirts of town, but not because I don’t want to. I’ve spent more than a couple of hours crunching numbers, yellow legal pad covered in penciled columns. I’ve thought about what we can cut in order to afford even one summer at the pool with the waiters who deliver drinks and fruit platters on a tray. But the numbers don’t add up.

...I'm writing over at The High Calling today. Will you join me for the rest of this story over there?

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: The "Yeah, But..."Faith


A couple of weeks ago Noah asked me a question out of the blue as we were weeding in the garden: “Mommy, remember that part in the Bible where Jesus says it’s really hard for rich people to get into Heaven, and he tells that rich man that he has to give away everything in order to get into Heaven?”

“Yeah….” I answered tentatively, not sure where he was headed.

“Well, does that mean I have to give away all my stuff to get into Heaven?” asked Noah.

At the time I told Noah that no, Jesus didn’t necessarily intend that every one of us has to give away all our possessions in order to get into Heaven. I told him that Jesus knew the rich man had a particular problem with all his money – that he loved it too much and was too hesitant to part with it – which is why Jesus suggested he give it all away.

I believe that to be true, yet today I’m also wondering if that answer is just a little bit of a cop-out. I suspect I gave Noah the answer I hoped Jesus would give me, had I asked that same question: “Jesus, do I have to part with all my stuff to be your true follower? Or would it be good enough to give away just some of my stuff?”

This reminds me of a passage I read last week in 2 Kings. I can’t help but roll my eyes at the Israelites and Judeans in 2 Kings. “Really?” I think. “Are they really that dense? Do they really not get what God wants from them?” After all, the Israelites and Judeans seem to make the same mistakes time and time again: they worship other gods, they create idols to praise in place of or along with the one true God and then, when they realize their mistakes, they beg for God’s forgiveness. It’s a cycle that repeats itself ad nauseum.

As I read along, though, I stumble on these lines that strike hard:

“They worshipped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations which they had been brought.” (2 Kings: 17:32-33).

Notice the pattern in those two sentences: “They worshipped the Lord…but.”

They worshipped…but.

And really, isn’t that exactly what I do? I want it both ways:

Yeah, I worship and believe in God, but I want to live my life as I see fit, too.

Yeah, I worship and believe in God, but I want to be in control, too.

Yeah, I worship and believe in God, but I want to serve my own gods, too. [read: wealth, ambition, success, publishing].

I’ve got a “Yeah, but…” faith.

And you know what? God doesn’t want a “Yeah, but...” faith from me. In fact, God is very clear. He was clear during Old Testament times, and he’s clear now. It’s the same story, and I make the exact same mistakes that prompt me to roll my eyes at the dense Israelites.

God doesn’t want a halfway, “Yeah, but…” faith. He wants all of me – 100 percent. No ifs, ands or buts.

What about you? Do you ever fall prey to a “Yeah, but…” faith? How do you keep your heart and mind focused 100 percent on God?


Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up.

Or you can simply copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and paste it into your own post. Remember to include the link to your post down below...not your general blog address -- that way visitors can be sure to read the right post.

Typically we write about the lesson we read or the sermon we heard in church on Sunday. That said, I am pretty loosey-goosey – you can write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime until Wednesday at midnight to link up.

Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here!

Oh, and let me add...even though I do my best to read and comment on each of your posts, it *may* happen that I don't make it by to every one each week. Two boys, summer days, lots of clamoring to play Uno...you know how it goes! And so I thank you in advance for your grace!




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The Secret Garden

It’s not the most exciting field trip destination: a tiny urban oasis tucked under towering cement and glass.

And really, there’s not a lot to see: fountains burbling, grackles scavenging deli crumbs from lunch break diners buttoned into oxfords, ivy climbing green.

It’s nearly 100 degrees. My legs slide slick beneath skirt as water splashes false promise into chlorine pools.





But a gentle stream meanders, perfect for rinsing sticky fingers, and a breeze stirs slight under white umbrellas. Japanese maple leaves splay like delicate fingers as we perch on cool stones, squeezing our limbs into dappled shade.

“It’s like a secret garden,” whispers Noah as we gaze into shaded arbor, Linden and River Birch branches arching tunnel overhead.




The boys follow the stream, crouching low on hands and knees as it disappears beneath concrete slabs.

And ice cream helps, too, cones wrapped in napkins and handed out the window by patient scooper.




The parking meter ticks to a stop. And as we step outside iron gates and down steps to air-conditioned car, we leave full.

What's filling you up these hot, dog-days of summer?

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All material and photographs copyrighted Michelle DeRusha 2012

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