Today is the day.

About 10 years ago we put a pen to paper and came up with a goal at Dare 2 Share to

Train 1,000,000 Teenagers To Share Their Faith By June 30, 2010″

At the time the goal seemed right. It was prayed over and planned for. Strategies began to form and programs were developed. The last decade has been a whirlwind of pushing toward that one bullseye. Not only was it posted on every brochure and strategic plan, it was written on my heart.

So, here we are. June 30, 2010. Have we trained 1.000.000 teenagers to share their faith? Not quite. My best guess is that we are about a couple hundred thousand short. This reality started my day with a sober and bittersweet, somewhat nostalgic tone. I caught myself reflecting on the past and remembering the sweat, tears, and blessings. But as the day is coming to a close, I really feel thankful.

  • I am thankful for the opportunity to even have a goal like this laid on my heart. My prayer life is better for it.
  • I am thankful for the hundreds of thousands that were trained and I pray that they have trained hundreds of thousands of others that only God knows about.
  • I am thankful for the new vision goal of mobilizing teenagers to make disciples who make disciples. It is more complete and holistic and reflects the wonderful principle of multiplication.
  • I am thankful for those who have walked beside me through the journey. They have touched many a teenager’s lives and I can only hope I am present to see them get their rewards in heaven!
  • I am thankful that God’s timing is not mine. “Lest any man should boast.” I am not surprised now when He surprises me. What a great God we serve!

I wonder what the next 10 years will hold?

It started with a scurry of activity and stress. Bundled with the typical seasonal obligations were the remnants of a trying time in ministry early in the month. But ready or not, I headed in. Committed to making this Bresina Christmas Eve more memorable and family-focused than last year’s “quick and dirty dinner out,” I took a full day off in advance to ensure I could host a bash. It was the first day of my 14-day out-of-office stint, and I had a list of to-do’s.

Along with the to-do list was a couple of healthy (albeit difficult) commitment objectives I set for myself for this short-term sabbatical:

  • Focus on relationships (especially the ones that had suffered the most from the intensity of the past few months).
  • Rest.
  • Create some space to get “my head straight”.
  • Don’t work! (D2S stuff that is…)

Christmas Eve was a hit and everyone invited save one came and partook of the annual Bresina stinky (but delicious I am told) Oyster Stew. We didn’t get any extended family talked into joining us for candlelight worship services in Brighton at 11 pm, but I just don’t think our family is up to staying up that late. I will have to work out something different for next year. Christmas came and went and was filled with great food and fellowship and thankful hearts.

Remarkably, I came close to finishing the list and with one major exception, feel pretty good about keeping my commitment objectives. It took me a full week, but I finally began to relax. I spent almost an entire day unplugged and with the Lord. I had some great coffee times complemented by outstanding conversation. I saw three movies and went shopping with 8-year-olds for hermit crabs. The craft room is organized and I can see the top of my desk in our home office. I spent an afternoon painting platters with my closest confidant. I loved on my hubby, my son, my mom and dad, and many others. It was awesome!

But sadly, it’s now over. It’s time to hit 2010 head-on and accomplish His purpose for His glory! My desire this year is to continually be in prayer and to draw closer to my Savior. I want to rest in Him and allow Him to be the true authority in my life. As I head into the new year, these are the things I want to put first:

  • Making my relationship with Jesus my top priority.
  • Taking care of myself (sleep, exercise, eating right).
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • Love — purely, sincerely, honestly.
  • Model what I ask of others.

Here we go!

French philosopher Montaigne has said of the battle at Thermopylae,

There are triumphant defeats that rival victories.”

This may seem like a contridiction or merely a play on words, but have you ever seriously thought about it? Today, studying a chapter from Os Guinness’s book The Call, I was faced with a new thought challenge. How can you have a triumphant defeat?

Mr. Guinness makes a strong case for our attitude and behaviour in the midst of a battle, explaining how a small group of Spartans fought courageously so many years ago, fighting with hands and teeth when their swords were gone. Knowing that we live in a fallen world, and knowing that in the end the victory is His and not ours, I wonder if God is watching and waiting for us to “behave as if He would wish us to behave?”

I have certainly experienced my own version of a battle this past year. And I know that I was not always fighting through it with courage and dedication. What a great reminder today from 2 Timothy 4!

  • Preach the Word – I can’t preach it if I don’t know it. I need to study this letter to me and then unashamedly share it with others.
  • Be Prepared – Along with studying the Word in preparation, my relationship with Him must come first. I do not want to be a fake.
  • Teach and Encourage – Encouragement may come easily for me, but do I act on every nudge from the Spirit? Teaching is not as natural for me since I am relentlessly impatient. But the Lord has surrounded me with amazing students, I need to be obedient and teach when it is called for.
  • Keep a Clear Mind – Yes, in every situation. <pause> Not sure what else to say…
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Suffering – I realize that it is laziness that has motivated me to ask for an end to the suffering that I have experienced personally. I just don’t want to expend the energy needed to fight. I suppose this is where I need to look to my “Spartan” friends for inspiration and face the fight head on. It’s a time to stand!
  • Work at Telling Others the Good News – Even though I work for Dare 2 Share, I still stink at sharing Christ boldly. I love the fact that this is a work in progress. It is progress in this area that I truly desire – may I be a better witness this year than last.
  • Fully Carry Out the Ministry God has Given Me – for whatever reason, I am where I am. I need to fully carry out what He has called me to do right now.

I want to end this post with a great quote from The Call:

A time to stand is a time to behave as our Lord would wish us to behave. A time to behave is a time to believe as He has taught us to believe. A time to believe is a time to move from small, cozy formulations of faith to knowing what it is to be called by Him as the deepest, most stirring, and most consuming passion of our lives.”

If I face any defeat in my future Lord, let me face it with a triumphant resolve for Your glory!

My great friend Marlae challenged me some time ago to commit to a consistent DAWG day. She did this as counsel for my consistent need for spiritual encouragement. You see, Marlae is one of a handful of women that I know that I consider wise beyond their years, especially when it comes to matters of spiritual growth and balance in life.

This “Day Alone With God” has still not become a regular outing for me. Usually it is more like a MAWG day (Morning Alone…) than a DAWG day, but I often recall Marlae’s voice in my head saying, “start with what you can do.” So, today, with the advent of a convenient Christmas office closure and a nagging urge to walk into a new year with a renewed relationship with Who matters most, I’ve been reading and writing, praying and crying at my local thinking spot (where they also serve a great latte!).

It’s more difficult than I thought it would be – trying to focus on just this one thing. I did turn my cell phone off and vowed to only use the computer/internet to write, but I am invariably more distracted than I want to be. It’s not the hubub of the coffee shop at all. It’s the urge to DO. I can focus for about 2 hours and then, sure enough, here comes “the to-do list” again!

I’m hoping this blog post will allow me to reset through expression of the frustration. The morning brought some amazing insights from Job. Here are just a few thoughts and verses that I ended up journaling about:

  • Trials are an opportunity to turn to God for strength.
  • Doubt is one of Satan’s footholds in my life.
  • Job 28:28 – “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is understanding.”
  • Job 29:16 – “And now my life seeps away. Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly.”
  • Job 42:2 – “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.”

Okay, back to the Book.

Have you ever noticed that when God wants you to get something, really “get it”, He continually spells it out in front of you? The last couple of weeks have been that way for me.

It started when I picked back up reading Secrets of the Vine by Wilkinson. Learning about how God “prunes” us is certainly interesting and I became increasingly intrigued by the idea. So, I began looking up verses that were referenced and studying the notes in my application Bible.

Then it started. I became acutely aware of how I was responding to adverse circumstances. Even though nothing joltingly remarkable happened, there was plenty of pain to attract my focus. Now, a couple of really crappy days and a few bad decisions later, I am realizing that God has been doing “His thing” in my life all along!

I am praying that I can truly get it now and do better. And I am encouraged by the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13-14:

…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I want to focus on that ONE THING! My heart’s desire is to join author John Piper when he writes:

Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.

I know God will continue to prune as He sees fit. My only hope is that I can respond by focusing on the prize…

Yesterday my family came together to say goodbye to our beloved Granny. But instead of a traditional memorial service, Granny specifically requested a picnic in the park. She took the time to write down the details of this day before she left us. A casual gathering, a couple of songs, the release of helium-filled red balloons. I’m not sure why she wanted to be remembered this way, I never talked to her about it. But my guess would be that she didn’t want a big fuss, she just wanted everyone together and for everyone to get along with each other.

Granny treasured times with family. I remember her being the happiest when she was with the whole crew. Even in her later years, she seemed to enjoy watching the little ones running around playing just as much as being involved in the adult conversation. When I was younger her Christmas Eve party was something I looked forward to all year. She would rent a big clubhouse so there would be room for all the cousins. Santa would personally deliver our gifts and there was an endless supply of food.

I still can’t believe she’s gone. For some reason, I really expected her to outlive me. Up until the past couple of years, she was extremely active and healthy. She never was what anyone would consider a typical American grandma. She wasn’t a gray-haired, apron-clad woman who baked cookies. No, she was a beautiful professional woman – undeniably classy and unashamedly independent. And whether she was going to a 4 year old’s birthday party or out for a night on the town – she always looked good. As a young girl I remember bragging to my friends, I wanted to be just like her.

Before I became a teenager she would take me on special excursions. We’d shop for hours and hours and then she would treat me to a meal at a fancy restaurant. I would stay the night in her high rise apartment. She would talk to me about the way a lady should act. She would tell me I was beautiful and full of potential. I always felt grown up and sophisticated. These were some of my fondest memories.

So here we were, all of us a part of a family that she in fact began. Memories filled the air as we compared stories and shared fried chicken. Tucked away back in a little neighborhood park. She would have loved the atmosphere. Kids laughed and played in the playground, the teenagers enjoyed volleyball and the men competed at horseshoes.

Then the mood changed slightly as we each took a red balloon and stood in a circle out in the grass. An Irish bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace played loudly in the background and then the balloons were simultaneously released into the air. I couldn’t hold back the tears. It was a bittersweet goodbye.

I will see you again soon my sweet Granny. Someday soon.

Just over two weeks ago Granny suffered a severe stroke and heart attack which led to a decision for her to be placed in hospice. I will never forget that day. We all knew that the decision for hospice was what she wanted, she made that very clear. But it certainly didn’t make it any easier on any of us.

It was a blessing to be able to spend some time alone with her before she was moved from her hospital room to the hospice unit. I decided to ask her if she knew what would happen when she died. It wasn’t like this was new territory for a conversation between Granny and me. We had talked about her diverse “religious” upbringing many times. She would laugh about how many times she had been “saved”, walked an aisle, or been baptized as she and her mom traveled from home to home when she was young. But here, in this hospital room, I was asking point blank. “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins Granny?” She shook her head yes. “Do you know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die?” She nodded again. “Do you want to hear about what heaven is going to be like?” She shook her head no and put up her hand. Apparently, she didn’t want to hear anymore about it. So I prayed. I prayed out loud and boldly. And she held my hand tightly.

Over the next six days family members would be in and out of her room. She could hear us but her responses grew weaker and weaker as the days passed. We would pray and cry. We would read to her and play music for her. I read the entire book of John to her when we were alone together. And with many others in the room, I read about heaven.

I was asked many times if I thought she would be in heaven. As sincerely as I could, I would answer that there was no way to know for sure. But I have faith that I will see her again. I have faith that Granny understood who Jesus was and why He came and accepted it as her only way to eternal life. My prayer is that every person in my family will also make this decision. I know Granny would want us all together again.

Last weekend I was pulling out of the garage and wasn’t paying attention. I ran right into our Jeep which was parked in the driveway right behind me! As I go out to assess the damage, I was furious with myself. Rick was on a fishing trip and I was (once again) trying to pack twenty things into only a couple of hours. I was preoccupied and distracted. Thankfully, the damage wasn’t too bad to my Miata and the Jeep didn’t have a scratch. But it didn’t help the way I felt.

I decided to put aside “the list” of to-do’s and head to the coffee shop to spend some time in the Word. I sat there for two hours – sipping coffee – reading and journaling.

I have been studying 1 Peter. And as I poured over the first two chapters again, God lifted one small word off the page for me. SO. It amazed me how many times it showed up just in those few short passages. I felt as though if I could only focus on what followed that one small word, maybe I would be able to take small steps toward getting my focus back where it should be. I spent some time and wrote these down SO I wouldn’t forget:


  • be truly glad.
  • think clearly and exercise self control.
  • live as God’s obedient children.
  • live in reverent fear of Him.
  • show sincere love to each other as brothers & sisters.
  • get rid of all evil behavior.

My prayer these next few weeks is that I can just start with these few things SO I can focus my eyes more clearly on what matters most.

I had a great talk with Jane last week. Remember Jane? She is my good friend and fellow Dare 2 Share co-laborer who is now dealing with a second cancer diagnosis after just recently recovering from breast cancer a little over a year ago.

Jane is 30% through her chemo treatments. 2 down, 4 to go. We had a minute in the midst of the busy work day for me to ask how she was doing. How she was REALLY doing. She sat down and calmly explained to me that while it has been hard (and especially difficult on her children), God has given her just enough grace and mercy that she needs at any given moment. We joked about how it could be illustrated like a video game – you jump and sure enough here comes a platform to land on – just in time!

Sure enough. That’s how He rolls. “Come to me,” He says. “Don’t worry about tomorrow, today has it’s own problems,” He reminds us.

Last week Rick’s company was sold. It certainly didn’t come as a major surprise, they had been struggling for years. We can’t even recall a profitable quarter. But when you are 50 years old with MS and have commited over 15 years to a place, it’s still a hardy jolt. How’s Rick? He, like Jane, is a pillar of faith. He won’t know anything for about a month while the company goes through a special accelerated Chapter 11 bankruptcy process and then finalizes the merger. But Rick is patiently waiting to see what God has in store next.

We’ve been talking for a while about life changes as we enter a new “season.” Looks like those changes will come whether we like it or not! 🙂

So, here we go… JUMP! Thank you Lord, in advance, because we know that you will provide that platform for us to land on “just in time.”

Our church is working through a series on Luke. Today the sermon centered on Luke 22 – the Last Supper. Not having grown up “churched” like most of my friends, this sacrament is one that I never grow tired of learning about. The reverant remembrance of Christ’s work on the cross never fails to stir up something in me and today was no different.

But today, as Rob taught, he brought up the fact that the disciples heard Jesus claim that the one who would betray him was sitting right there with them and each of them began to wonder if they were the one.  I found myself reflecting on this last week. Then I heard Rob teach about the personal introspection that should be a part of our communion experience.

So I went there. I pulled up the “tapes” from this last week for an inside out inventory of my behavior. Monday – okay. Tuesday – okay. Wednesday – oh yeah… a few emergencies at the office to respond to… how’d I do? If I was grading myself, maybe a C+, possibly a B. Thursday – blizzard – yep, things started heading south. I remember having to find a quiet spot for repentance. Friday? Seems that attitude of repentance didn’t really help much, by mid-afternoon I was back sliding again.

All that to say, I am SO thankful for God’s grace and mercy! I know these inside out moments are necessary for my relationship to grow in Him, but if it wasn’t for the hope I have in Christ they sure would be depressing!

Let it be known that I am an avid people watcher! But not the typical people watcher, mind you, I have a twist. My most favorite thing to do (especially at airports, the zoo, or the park) is to zoom in on parents and their children. No, I am not a parental critic. Most often it doesn’t really matter to me how parent’s decide to raise their kids. I spend my time trying to figure out who the kid looks like! I find it fascinating! Mom’s eyes? Dad’s nose? Hmmm…

I can spend hours doing this and for some crazy reason I just think it’s a blast! I wonder if it’s because deep down inside I am absolutely amazed with the entire creation process? Have you ever thought about it?

Here’s another twist… Have you ever wondered who you look like? Have you ever wondered how much you “look like” Jesus? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and it’s been an interesting introspection. When I recount my day and put it through the test, I see many, many moments where I didn’t “look like” my Savior at all.

I am reading a great book called, UnChristian, by David Kinnaman. The entire book is based on research about how young “outsiders” (those who do not know Christ) perceive Christians. As a believer it has helped me understand a few things. At the end of each chapter the author has given pages to a few contributors for insight. Yesterday I found this great quote from Sarah Raymond Cunningham:

I am not asked to impersonate the Holy Spirit but to live a life that gives off God’s fluorescence. And I resolve to remember that God often allows us to learn just as much as we travel our chosen paths as we would have if we had walked only his lighted portions.

I love what she is saying here about learning from our bad days as well as our good days. Yes, no matter what, my desire is that I learn what He would have me learn.

God’s fluorescence… I love that!

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