Tuesday, November 19, 2013


(From the final chapter "Launching from my Summit" an excerpt from Leona's book-in-progress "STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT."
How I have lived after I became a follower of Christ determines whether God will welcome me to Himself with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Or might I simply hear the words “Well! Done!” in the sense of relief that I have finally finished my life—but I may not have finished well. 

My welcome into God’s presence will not be based on my being a “good and perfect servant.” Since all have missed the mark of perfection, God has lovingly provided a way before I enter into heaven to become holy and pure enough to dwell there with Him for eternity. Then I will be perfect. Nor am I qualified by being good in the sense of depending on my own righteousness or good works. I cannot earn God’s commendation of “Well done!” in that way.

Nor is my welcome based on being a successful servant. How I define success may be far from how God defines it; His ways are higher than our ways. 

Nor will it be because I have been a well-known servant. The highest commendation may be given to a believer who has lived his or her life in relative but faithful and holy obscurity.

Nor will it be based on my being the always busy servant. Being busy and active even in so-called Christian service is not the same as being spiritually fruitful, which is what the Lord is after. God defines fruitfulness, and it may not be what we think it is.

“Good and faithful servant” is God’s expectation of how I should live my life on earth. I am good as I stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God looks at me as being “in Christ” and works with me as I “work out [not work for] my own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) God’s way is to transform me through the process of my lifetime into the image of His Son. God commends me on my faithfulness to the purpose for which He gave me life and how obediently I have walked in His ways. 

It is fairly easy to begin well—but to finish well is more important. My focus in this book has been on my hope of finishing my earthly life well. Is it depressing or morbid to talk about the end of life? It shouldn’t be, any more than discussing the beginning of life. What begins, naturally looks toward completion. 

We don't need to be elderly to consider this subject. People finish their lives at different ages and in different ways. Illness, accident, acts of war, hereditary factors, or natural catastrophes cut life short for many who never attain to an advanced age. None of us is guaranteed open-end time to work on this matter of finishing well. I must live purposefully every single day as if it were my last and so be well on the way at all times in the process of finishing well.

Many Christians who begin well don’t finish well because they take detours along life’s journey. Some deviate drastically from God’s purposes for their lives, others drop out along the way, still others gradually slip back because the way is simply too difficult and they feel that the odds are against them. Is there any hope for such people to finish well?

In whatever stage of life or age we find ourselves, since we are still alive, we can do something about finishing well in the sight of God and man. Applying it personally, my goal should not simply be to finish somehow, to limp exhausted and in last place over the finish line of my life’s race, or to make it through life as well as can be expected under the circumstances. I can't count on God grading on the curve. 

I don't want to simply finish, but finish with a flourish! There is always hope. It is never too late. God is the God not only of the second chance, the third chance, or the hundredth chance. 

Biblical examples abound of some who were good beginners but poor finishers and others who were bad beginners but good finishers. King Saul began well and finished miserably. King David began well but in some respects finished with a considerably less than perfect score. King Jehoshaphat began well and finished poorly. His son began wickedly and finished admirably. Saint Paul began terribly and finished gloriously. Contemporary examples also illustrate both good beginnings and bad outcomes and vice versa. 

To finish well is the really big test! As I advance to my final years it is easy to let my guard down, to drift morally, to grow slack in my full obedience to the Lord. By the drift of my older years I am in danger of undoing all the good and positive reputation and witness for God of my earlier years. I pray that God will give me wisdom and an obedient heart so that I may not disgrace Him at life's end.

I titled my blog “The Rest of the Way.” Everyone has a rest of the way. It doesn't matter whether a person is barely starting out on his journey of life in his youth or nearing the finish line, if he is breathing he still has some rest of the way. In my senior years, whether I have only a month, a minute, or a decade left, I have the opportunity to spend my time, invest it, squander it, or passively watch it fly by. 

The last few minutes of a football game can change the final score. God expects us to build our lives to outlast the storm, to persevere and endure to our last breath, to be faithful unto death or until Christ returns—to finish well!

Monday, November 18, 2013


“Detachment” is a good Christian word and a good Bible word. 

We hear it in the writings of the deeper life Christian writers, mystics, contemplatives, and throughout Scripture. Just as a helium balloon will never be able to mount up to start its journey if the line by which it is tethered to the earth is not cut loose, so we need to deliberately detach ourselves, and loosen our grip on the material things of life. 

For this I need a determined act of my will and prayer for God's enabling strength. We don't detach easily from the comfortable and superfluous things which entangle us.

For the famous Double Eagle II hot air balloon and her crew of three—destination Paris, France from the potato fields of Maine—arriving did not come cheaply. In order to stay aloft on the last leg of their long journey, the crew was forced to throw over the side such valuable gear as recording equipment, radios, film, cameras, sleeping bags, chairs, and a cooler with most of their water and food. They treated it all like rubbish to achieve their goal of safe arrival.

A professor of political and environmental science at a Pennsylvania college suggested, “Perhaps the silver lining of the recession is that people are coming to realize they can live with less and their lives are richer for it.” Shrinking paychecks and loss of jobs are prompting Americans to pare back their lifestyles. A Met Life Study of the American Dream concludes that nearly half of consumers say they already have what they basically need. People are feeling both forced and inspired to get back to their core needs. Someone has written a book titled “Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life.” The point being made is that people are coming to value objects less and experiences and relationships more.

A blog writer in San Diego launched a “100 Things Challenge” which sparked thousands of responses nationwide. He inspired people to reduce their possessions to fewer than 100 items and try to break the hold of materialism. We remember Jesus’ words, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” 

People seem to be catching on that voluntary simplicity, spending less, and saving more is a better “new normal” pattern. For many, it's beginning to come back to basics; websites on living close to nature are getting more traffic. Recessions, economic downturns, and near depressions are becoming a kind of wake-up call to all of us caught in the sticky web of consumerism and the drive toward prosperity at all costs. 

After all, “The American Dream” is not found in Holy Writ.

I need to experience Saint Paul's detachment, “…for [Christ] I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). God forbid that the precious things I possess, the urgent things I do, the treasures I hug to myself will seize me, entangle me, hold me, and mold me to their image.

It's not true what the bumper sticker declares: “The man with the most toys wins.” We are unable to take such things with us when we leave this earth anyway. A familiar hymn challenges us to detach ourselves from the temporal and the material: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I have a beautiful ring that my late husband Ted's sister gave me years ago. I didn't know its value or even what stone it was until I took it to a jeweler who told me it was an African opal. It flashes different shades of blue, green, red, and yellow depending on the light source. I have received many compliments on it.

 I didn't know how the gem was formed or where it was found until I came across the devotional by paraplegic Joni Tada of JONI AND FRIENDS below. Now I treasure it all the more as I think about its spiritual implications for my life. 

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17

I've always loved opals, partly because that's my birth stone. But also because opals seem even more brilliant and full of fire than a diamond. Amazingly, this beauty comes from desert dust and silica from sand dunes. That's what opals are made of. They owe their beauty to a defect -- it's a stone with a broken heart. The opal is full of minute fissures that admit air, and then the air refracts the light. Because of this defect, the opal is all the more brilliant.

You and I who have broken hearts are sometimes only conscious of the cracks and the fissures. But out of all this God is making an opal heart. We must be broken in ourselves before we can give back the lovely hues of His light, including the fire, the brilliance. The Bible says that God can best use a heart that is broken and contrite. It's true in my life. When I'm self-sufficient and in control, my heart becomes a little hardened to others' needs. In fact, that self-sufficient attitude even hardens my heart toward God.

Ah, but then He allows it to break...by a cutting yet true remark from a friend. Or rejection from someone whose opinion I respect. Or by a verse such as, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Sometimes something beautiful will break my heart...a special hymn or the testimony of someone who has suffered. Only when my heart is fractured, full of minute fissures, can God's love enter in and refract His own light.

Next time you see an opal, think of how you must be broken before you can give back the lovely hues of God's light. Let the opal remind you to thank God for a broken heart.
Lord of my heart, thank You that You use brokenness to create beauty and that my defects are tools to serve Your purpose.

Goodbye “WATERMELON SMILE” body wash

My grandson is movin’ on toward maturity! So I’m using up his WATERMELON SMILE Moisturizing Body Wash in my shower these days. 

It’s labeled “For KIDS” and is in a brilliant green and chartreuse plastic bottle with Sponge Bob pictured on the front. All this is meant to make clean-up attractive to children. The stuff is sweet scented, almost smells like bubble gum. But I guess I can endure that. I don’t want to waste it. It’s leftover from when my grandson used it.

When my now fourteen year old grandson Jeffrey visits, he uses “SPORT” shower gel with the label shouting “Mean and Clean.” It’s in a jet black plastic easy-grip bottle with a battleship gray and silver top. The matching soap is also battleship gray and certainly strongly scented for manly noses.

Seems like only yesterday Jeffrey was eager to plunge into grandma’s whirlpool bathtub and fill it with purple HAWAIIAN BLAST foaming bubble bath and disappear in its depths to pretend he was Jaws.

Saint Paul described the normal and expected maturing process with a spiritual spin. “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Cor. 13:11) My grandson still has a ways to go to reach full manhood, but he is definitely on the way. How he cleans up is a symbol of his progress.

We anticipate children to act like children so our expectations are proportionate. We know that we will have to remind children repeatedly to wash up. There seems to be a natural avoidance to soap and water! Supervision seems to go on forever before they finally take over with their own motivation. 

Spiritually we should grow up in relation to personal cleansing which is the holiness to which God draws us. When we do soil our spirits, we need to know how to get rid of sin’s contamination and stench through confession, repentance, and the beautiful and efficacious channels the Church provides for our reconciliation.

It’s no longer necessary to plead with and nag this into-his-teens young man to wash up. He gladly heads for the shower, especially after sports workouts. Big time progress! Then the problem becomes long, long showers! “You're going to use up all the hot water, Jeffrey!” May all of God’s growing children of whatever age follow suit. It takes light to reveal our spiritual spots and blemishes. Let's be quick to clean up and walk in the Light as Jesus provides it. 

Saint Paul reveals his heart with his instruction in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is expanded by Saint John in his first epistle, chapter one, verses seven through nine: “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Some of us who are more mature in years and in the Christian faith might do well to continue using that spiritual WATERMELON SMILE Moisturizing Wash if we are still behaving in a childish manner. With the wisdom of our many years, God expects us to be examples of believers and live godly in Christ Jesus. That means to grow up in all ways unto the Lord. 

No excuse slips issued to those of us in advanced years!