Monday, January 31, 2011


Some years ago on my return trip from Europe on Swiss Air flight # 128 , I experienced for the first time the unique personal video display screens mounted on the back of each passenger’s seat for the benefit of the passenger behind. The screen showed a full color panorama of the land and ocean over which our plane was flying. It was continually changing. I could follow the small icon of our plane as it made its way from Zurich, our point of departure, to our destination.

The display kept us informed of the changes in altitude, the temperature, distance already covered, the distance remaining to touchdown, the plane’s speed, the actual hours in flight, present location, and the projected time from point to point. Intermittently the scene flipped to expand for us the entire scope of the world and our little plane icon proportionately displayed as a moving dot. We could see the seascape, the landscape, the atmospheric conditions, and the updated estimated time of arrival. As the hours passed, we could follow our gradual descent in altitude, and when we landed at Dulles International Airport in Virginia after nine hours in flight, the monitor informed us how many miles we had traveled.

We experienced times of “fasten your seat belt” turbulence and some stormy weather, but as passengers we always knew exactly how far we were from our destination. Unless some catastrophe occurred to abort our flight and we crashed into the sea, we could count on the precise time of arrival.

That is not the case with our earthly lives. Most of us know the approximate time of our birth but the time of our arrival at our destination, our spirit’s departure from Planet Earth, is veiled from us by God. We ask in vain, “Are we there yet?” as our impatient children so often whined on a road trip. Most of us would like the luxury of viewing our lives on a display screen as a little icon moving along so we could plan our lives accordingly—to accelerate what we still want to accomplish or experience if we know our time is short or—to relax a little more if we know that generous time still lies ahead.

When we do reach an advanced age, we can speculate quite accurately that the arrival at our destination can’t be too far in the future. One hundred percent of humanity dies; it is absolutely certain that each generation will pass away.

Like the ten wise virgins in Matthew 25, we are always to be ready for the coming of The Bridegroom although we don’t know the ETA of His arrival. In the case of our earthly lives, whether we are young or old, the sight of our Bridegroom may be heralded either when we draw our last mortal breath or when Jesus Christ arrives at His promised glorious Second Coming. In either case, our lamps should be full of oil, symbolizing the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and our wicks trimmed to burn brightly. Like the oil in the lamps of the tent of meeting in Exodus 27 outside the veil, burning from evening to morning, the lamps require clear, pure oil from beaten olives to enable them to burn continually. Our oil is to be combined with spices and fragrant incense (of prayer and praise and worship) as we wait for our Bridegroom. Daily, continually, we should seek to be anointed with fresh oil (Psalm 92:10) so that our cup is continually running over. (Psalm 23:5)

Then our question, “Are we there yet?” will be answered by the Father’s welcome, “Well done, good and faithful servant; Enter into the joy of your Lord!”



Well, we made it again from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Years! Food preparation and hospitality were high on our priority list. Seasonal goodies tempted us at every turn. Ethnic food traditions delighted us. Moms are usually the ones who made it all happen.

Who doesn’t overindulge on all those sumptuous delicacies? As a consequence, our New Years’ resolutions seemed to zero in on diet and exercise. How well have we done with all our hopes and goals?

Scripture has much to say about eating and our attitudes toward food.

Don’t you imagine that Jesus loved to eat? He always seemed to be going to dinner parties! Many of His parables revolved around food. He even invited Himself to dinner at Zaccheus’ house. (I’ll bet His Jewish Mamma Mary was a good cook and so was His grandma Anna!) He said of Himself, “The Son of Man comes eating and drinking….” (Matthew 11:19) Many events in His life and His divine declarations took place in the context of food. Jesus declared that He is The Bread of Life. (John 6:35)

After His ascension to the Father, we have a glimpse in Acts 2:46 of how His apostles ate: “…they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God….” What a good model for us!

These days we even see promos in the media reminding us that to have a happy family we should eat our meals together! So what else is new? Past generations took that for granted. For Christians, to share food expresses fellowship, celebration and thanksgiving. What an incongruity that most of the world beyond our shores prays for enough food to eat, and we pray for God’s help to limit our food intake because we are overweight!

The following is not a prayer for you to teach your family before diving into the food you serve so abundantly on your table—Cries may come forth, “The prayer is too long! The food is getting cold!”

I offer it as a Bible study and for your own private mother-heart meditation in some quiet corner perhaps after holiday festivities when you might be thinking about the dreaded four letter word: DIET. As moms, we are the chief food processors and servers and hospitality givers, so we bear a heavy responsibility for our Christian households.

A Mother’s Meditation on Food

Dear Lord of all I am, including my mortal body which belongs to You not to me, (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) I want to eat and drink to Your glory. (1 Cor.10:31) May every meal I prepare for myself or for my family be a truly spiritual event.

Lord God, You declared that everything You created is good (Genesis 1) including food, and nothing is to be rejected, if we receive it with gratitude as those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3-5) Thank You for providing the food which I prepare. Bless and sanctify it by Your word and by this my prayer. I offer to Your Lordship my appetite, the good digestion of the food, and its nourishment for my body and for the health of my family. (Romans 12:1)

Scripture declares that Your will for me is to prosper and be in health, even as my soul prospers. (3 John 2) Help me to wisely keep my body, soul, and spirit in the best condition so that I can daily walk in divine health to please and serve You. (Ephesians 5:10)

You said that man [and woman too!] does not live by bread alone, that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17) Teach me to watch and pray when I choose foods; show me how to eat only food that is nutritious and needful for me (Proverbs 30:8) lest I yield to the temptation of the flesh. You know, O Lord, that my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) Nevertheless, I can do all things, even controlling my food selection and portions, through You who promised to strengthen me. (Philippians 2:13)

Help me eat only as much as I need for my body’s health. (Proverbs 25:16) In order to be a better witness for You, if I need to shed the weight that so easily besets me through poor eating habits, (Hebrews 12:1) may I grow the Fruit of the Spirit in temperance and self-control. (Galatians 5:16, 22-25)

Whenever I eat, may it be with joy and gladness as a celebration because You, gracious Father, have given us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) Give me a merry heart so that I may have a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)

Lord Jesus, You were known in the breaking of bread whereby You revealed Your real presence. (Luke 24:30, 31) When I come to Your Eucharistic Table, I receive Your Body and Blood indeed. You, in turn, promised to be at our daily table to eat with me and my family. (Revelation 3:20) I acknowledge and welcome Your presence and preeminence among us who gather to eat. (Proverbs 3:6) May our conversation over food be pleasant as a honeycomb, sweet to our souls, health to our bones, and pleasing to You. (Proverbs 16:24)

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN



I write this in the depth of winter when the leaves have fallen off the huge oak tree outside my picture window. I see just a few hardy leaves still dangling and dancing on the branches. Even those are being snatched off by strong winds that are harbingers of the coming freezing rain which is forecast to turn into a snowstorm.

Why do the trees in this climate lose their leaves at this season? With omnipotent foreknowledge, our Creator God designed trees to lose their leaves in winter so that when heavy snow and ice cling to the branches, they won’t break with the weight. Trees stand naked and to all appearances seem to be lifeless. In God’s marvelous cycle of the seasons, they are fully alive and awaiting their spring resurrection.

               God employs similes and metaphors to point us to truth about Himself and about us.
People of faith in Scripture are symbolized as sheep, buildings, fishermen, grain, children—
and trees. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and
whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" ( Psalm 1:3).

God’s choice of a tree to illustrate a growing Christian is not specific to any chronological age, although the context of certain verses like Psalm 92: 13-16 describes God’s expectations for the aging believer in God. “The just man shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit even to old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be, declaring how just is the Lord, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong.” Vigorous and sturdy and flourishing are not ways one usually describes a person advancing in age, but that is God’s expectation for our spiritual lives. An insightful note from the NAB Catholic version on the above verse is, “Planted: the pious are so steadfast in attendance in the temple that they can figuratively be said to be rooted there.”

Other tree verses are found in Jeremiah 17:7, 8, “For he [the blessed one who believes in, relies on, hopes in and has confidence in the Lord] shall be like a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not see and fear when heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; he shall not be anxious and careful in the year of drought, nor shall he cease from yielding fruit.” (From the Amplified version) The application is clear. The Christian must stay close to the Water of Life. And if there is no surface river, he can stretch his roots still deeper to an underground river, an “aquifer” of water far beneath the ground. It can’t be seen but is the invisible source for wells and springs. In drought time and in the heat of adverse circumstances, our lives and our witness, watered well, will still flourish and bear fruit and grow green leaves.

What is the significance of “their leaf shall not wither”? Leaves of a tree or plant have multiple functions. They receive and absorb nutrients from the sun and the atmosphere to nourish the whole process of fruit bearing. Leaves serve as a gentle protection and a covering for the developing fruit. They hide the fruit from predators. Leaves provide shade from the heat and shelter for people. Leaves help to identify the variety of tree even before fruit develops. People can’t see whether a root is healthy, but they can monitor our leaves and draw an accurate conclusion by observing whether our leaves, our actions and our words, are green and supple. If our leaves are dried up or withered, something is obviously wrong either with our root system or the environment. The application to our spiritual lives is obvious. Advancing age is not an excuse for allowing our spiritual lives to wither or become dry in contrast to the normal decline and withering of the human body.

               It's impossible for a tall tree to have high branches without having strong, deep roots.
It would become top-heavy and topple over in a storm. The same is true of Christians. It's
impossible to grow in the Lord without entwining our roots around His Word and deepening
our relationship with Jesus in order to be “steadfast and unmovable” as Scripture commands
               May our roots grow deep in your Word, Lord, and may our branches reach ever higher to
praise You. When winds of adversity come, help us to remain strong. It will be said of us, "They
will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor"

(Isaiah 61:3).


Sunday, January 30, 2011


“How are you?” I’m increasingly asked as I advance in years or am recovering from some current affliction or tangle of problems.

“Oh, I’m not out of the woods yet!” I sometimes catch myself replying.

I don’t know where that term originated, but it implies that there is some inevitable light at the end of the tunnel or that I will emerge from my present woods by the path I’m taking.

However, that is not always the case. The name of our woods is sometimes called “Chronic.” God’s loving answer to our prayers for healing or relief may be “Not yet” or even a loving, more permanent “No.” or “I have a better plan for you and it involves living in the woods.”

That was the case for the Apostle Paul. Whatever was his aggravating, possibly painful ailment for which he pleaded with God three times to remove, ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) He must have been in pain; he called it a thorn in his flesh. God knew that it was better for him to learn that even if Paul had to live in the woods the rest of his life, which he apparently did, God’s grace and strength were sufficient. And it would be better for us in like circumstances when we read what Paul wrote—without naming his affliction—so that we could fill in the blank with our particular situation. Paul was in a classroom where God wanted him to learn to be “well content” and “most gladly boast” about his weakness and chronic state while continuing to “live in the woods.” It was in that condition that God’s power would be manifested and perfected through him, rather than if he were to emerge healed and well and whole from the woods.

Many of God’s faithful ones live their entire lives in their unique woods with limitations, weaknesses, illnesses, unrelieved pain, disabilities, acquired or genetic, or suffering the same problems over and over again with no path through their woods but to endure.

Some of God’s precious children of every age are not even able to walk through their woods. Wheel chairs, even the electric kind, find it tough going to navigate over the branches and tangles and undergrowth of their woods. Still others are bedfast and shut in only able to gaze out the window at their woods as the trees seem to stretch off endlessly into the distance.

Some live in the confusion and disorder of emotional or mental woods, or relational, social, or financial dense forests. Still others, eventually all of us, unless our lives are shortened, are making our way through the wilderness of aging with all its attendant fears and uncertainties.

Blessed are we when we experience God’s healing touch and we are “made whole.” God heals, as He did through Jesus in His days on earth, and as He does now when it is His perfect will. Also, blessed are we when His loving, sovereign will for us is that we remain “unwhole” during this mortal lifetime and continue living in the woods. We are no less His precious, beloved children whether He chooses that we should live in the woods or out of the woods.

God promises to all of us the fullness of His presence and strength. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) whatever our disabilities or limitations or problems. Living in the woods, if that be God’s will for us, is the way to holiness in this Third Millennium just as it has been through ages past. Spiritually we are already “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10), whole, and well. In the future, in the full, brilliant light of God’s eternal presence, our wholeness will be realized—no more woods to live in!

As Christians, our faith teaches us that we may answer the How are you? question with, “I may have to live in the woods, but there God is giving me the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24) as well as providing me with more opportunity to lean heavily on Him, pray for other occupants of “the woods” and appropriate His ever-generous strength and mercy.”



If it’s a drag for me to pray, or I’m tongue-tied in God’s presence, or depend only on liturgical prayer, or try to impress Him by much speaking, or by contrast, am uncomfortable with silence between us, I obviously don't know God very well.

Why do I pray? Obligation is a poor incentive; so is habit or routine. My motivation should be to engage in a festive celebration of communion with the King of kings and Lord of lords! If I’m not on intimate, exciting speaking terms with God while I’m still in my human body, how would I feel in Heaven where I shall behold Him face to face in unbroken spiritual union and continual praise? If God is a stranger to me now, He will be a stranger then. Will heaven be a pleasant place to spend eternity? The love of God for me and my love for Him is the purest inspiration to pray. I should be eager to spend as much time as possible with the Divine Persons of the Trinity who are precious to me.

Almighty God chose everyday family relationships among the terms He used to explain His relationship with the mortal beings He created—lover and the beloved, bride and groom, husband and wife, parent and child. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to display and interpret the "Father" principle of God. Jesus invited us to approach God by addressing Him "Abba, Father," an intimate "Daddy" term used in the family circle. He invited His disciples, and me through them, to say "Our Father. . ."

Truly the King of the Universe is waiting for me to come into His presence. However, I don’t have to hold God at arm’s length and always address Him in flowery terms such as "Great and holy and mighty Potentate, Creator of the vast universe, Judge of the nations. . ." God is all of that, of course. I worship His majesty and approach Him with reverence and awe because I am a created being. But He is also "Abba, Father" to me, His child. We don’t need to use “thees and thous” to approach Deity. We may suppose that form of address should be used to show formal respect when, in fact, those terms came into use in centuries past when they were used in the familiar, intimate family circle.

When I search Scripture, I find an incredible intimacy with God described. He knows my thoughts before I think. He knew me in the womb before my bodily parts were fully formed. He knows me by name. No wonder David exclaimed in Psalm 139:6 "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it."

As a Christian I refer to Jesus as “my personal Savior.” How personal is He to me? He expects me to recognize His voice and to feel safe in His presence. He invites me to eat and drink with Him. He stays with me all night and never leaves me all day. Do I walk with Him, spend as much time as possible with Him, share everything with Him as my confidant, confess my failings to Him, share all my joys, feel free to expose my feelings and secrets? Am I absolutely honest with Him and keep nothing hidden? He says that He is in me and I am in Him. I receive His very body and blood in the Eucharist. That is what personal Savior implies.

Such a personal, intimate love relationship is what pleases God and makes Him smile, “makes His face to shine upon me.” The question Jesus asked Peter after the resurrection wasn’t, “Do you have all these doctrines straight?” or “Do you remember all that I told you?” or “Are you willing to die for Me?” He asked, “Do you love me?”

On this question hangs everything. Although He commended His early followers in the fledgling Church for their faithfulness and diligence in serving, Jesus said He was disappointed with the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter two because the believers had “lost their first-love” for Him. Jesus viewed that as priority.

Why do I come into God’s presence? To take part in the celebration of spending time with the Lover of my soul in a relationship mirrored in The Song of Songs in the Bible. “He walks with me and He talks with me and tells me I am His own” in the words of a hymn familiar to many Christians. Whatever it takes, I must be serious about rekindling my first love for the Lord, if it has cooled. Not tomorrow, but today. I don't have to drum it up or try to pump it up. As the Scripture instructs us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) All I need to do is open myself up to respond to His love for me.


Saturday, January 29, 2011


I gave birth to my first three children in three years in my early twenties. Some of my friends who saw me obviously “with child” again on the street in Hong Kong where my husband Ted and I were Protestant missionaries, would ask me, “Are you still pregnant with the same child…or is this another one?”

I was happy to be pregnant! I loved children then and equally now that I am a great-grandmother. More than sixty years have come and gone since then, and I am far past childbearing years in the natural. But guess what? I continue to be delighted and thankful to be PREGNANT AGAIN!

No, I’m not in the rare class with certain women in the Bible like Sarah and Elizabeth who became pregnant in their old age. For them it was supernatural. Nevertheless, God seems to expect godly older women to continue the reproductive cycle by “bringing forth” not biological children but spiritual offspring. There is no chronological limit on being pregnant with the purposes of God and continuing in spiritual fruitfulness to the end of one’s life.

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul instructs, “…the older women must behave in ways that befit those who belong to God….by their good example they must teach the younger women….” (Titus 2:3-5). Then, the always practical Paul puts his spiritual finger on aspects of lifestyle that may trip up more mature women and boldly lists them. Likewise he lists some of the pitfalls that younger women may stumble into with which the older women can help them. Read them for yourself.

Paul’s point is: mature women, first shape up yourselves, then reproduce yourselves in younger women by example and instruction. How do you define “older women” and “younger women”? Younger is anyone younger than you in chronological age—or—in spiritual journey. The ages may even flip upside down—an older woman who is young in our faith or just beginning her journey may be taught and role-modeled by younger women who are further along in their spiritual journey. In Christ there is no age distinction.

Fellow sisters, let's ask ourselves whether we are happily pregnant with our faith. Are we reproducing our spiritual life in other women? Are we currently mentoring anyone in our faith? If you are an empty nest mom, could you spiritually nurture a young mom who is overwhelmed with child care or household routine? If you are a grandma, could you cultivate a faith-friendship with a woman who is just approaching that season of life and feels that she is no longer useful or needed? Single women of any age in the marketplace or in secular life are not left out of the spiritually reproductive picture. They can become pregnant and bring forth spiritual offspring as readily as single religious Sisters do in convents and cloisters. As a well-married woman, could you make spiritually reproductive friendships with some newlywed women who could benefit from your experience?

In a more formal way in your church context, could you volunteer to reproduce your faith by teaching in Sunday School, CCD if you are Catholic, or serving in youth outreach? How about involvement in something exciting like a mothers' group where spiritually and biologically pregnant young women and moms encourage each other? Or at the other end of the age spectrum, a seniors’ fellowship or neighborhood Bible study where late (spiritual) pregnancies can bring forth friendships that will encourage mature women to keep pressing on with endurance in our faith?

The apostle Paul had a younger Timothy (doubtless many more than one) into whom he poured himself spiritually and in whose future leadership he invested. Although apparently being unmarried himself, at least at that time, he called himself a “father” to those whom he brought into the faith and discipled or mentored. In his pastoral instruction to Titus he encouraged godly women to have their “Timothys” too, as did Timothy's mother and grandmother. There are always plenty of younger women to whom they could likewise be “mothers” and coaches in the faith and in practical Christian living.

Who better than women could have wisely and discreetly “gossiped the gospel” in an early Christian society where believers were severely persecuted? Women have always been especially well-suited for personal evangelization by virtue of their household and family presence to influence and assist other women in a most natural way. The same is true in our generation.

Whatever our age, let us aim for LIFELONG PREGNANCY to bring forth as many spiritual children as we can to enter the courts of heaven with us!



From my friend Denise Bossert's blog (used by permission)

One of the most unlikely "convert stories" I've ever read: Journey to the Land of MORE

When I think of Leona Choy, I am reminded of Sarah and Elizabeth. These two women loved God, but late in life - at a time when they no longer had any reason to believe that they would conceive a child, God blessed them with the gift of life.

Leona was nearing her 80th birthday. She was a lifelong born-again, baptized-in-the-Spirit, Wheaton graduate and evangelical missionary to China and other countries. She was also the author of more than 30 books on loving God and giving one's life fully to God.

While returning home after a book tour of her final memoirs, God stepped in to send her on a new adventure. Leona set out to study the Catholic Church to convince a friend who had become Catholic that she was in serious error and needed to return to her evangelical roots. Love for her friend's soul motivated her to dig into Catholic teaching - in order to refute false teaching and win back her friend.

As with Sarah and Elizabeth, God was about to do a new work. An almost impossible thing. God was about to reveal to Leona - at the age of 80 - that there was more to the Catholic Church than she had ever imagined. While she expected to discover a mountain of error, she discovered a land of Truth and Beauty.

God was about to show her the land of More.

As Leona studied Catholic teaching in order to tear it to pieces and save her friend from heresy... an amazing thing began to happen. It was Leona who became convinced that she had found - not an apostate church - but the Church that Jesus Christ HIMSELF founded.

In her book Journey to the Land of More, Leona presents each of her perceptions of the Catholic Church, and she explains how God stripped away her misconceptions and gave her enough grace to embrace His Church.

"I hereby surrender to Truth, to the Church which Jesus established as His Body, His Bride...I surrender my past misunderstandings...I embrace Jesus wholly in His Church" (136).

After four years of study and painstaking research, on the threshold of her 80th birthday, Leona was received into the Catholic Church. "I wanted to seize the moment and hold it fast....It was not merely a symbol; it was the real presence of Jesus Christ. I partook of His very Body and Blood (John 6)" (146 Choy).

After a lifetime spent as a happy, contented evangelical, God called Leona to a journey of great faith and discovery.

What would happen to her friends? What would she do with all those
books that chronicled life as an evangelical? Would anyone listen to her or would everyone think she had gone a little crazy?

Would she still have a story to tell? Or would she be put on a shelf, to be forgotten by those who just couldn't go there.

What did God have for a woman whose life was nearly spent? Why in the world would He call her to this path?

When I think of Leona, I think of Sarah and Elizabeth. When they began to feel those first flutters of life within their once-barren wombs, did they feel as Leona did when she began to realize that God was not showing her how to convince her friend of Catholic error, but instead He was convincing her that the Catholic Church was His Church?

When Sarah and Elizabeth held their sons and those little boys reached up to touch the weathered faces of their mothers, was that how Leona felt when she received Jesus Christ - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - in the Eucharist. Was it a stirring up of new life, a kind of spiritual birthing, a gift that had once seemed impossible?

What does it take for a woman in her 80s to say yes to such a profound change of heart? It's grace! Leona Choy is Catholic by Grace!

Over and over, Leona repeats one line: God has had His hand on her life. And it was His good pleasure to show her something new, something beautiful, something unexpected in the Catholic Church.

As with every long wait, as with every difficult labor, the gift on the other side is worth it all.

Congratulations, Leona! And welcome Home!

Journey to the Land of More can be ordered through CHResources. P.O. Box 8290, Zanesville, OH 43702 or 1-800-664-5110 or online (or from