Hello and thanks for stopping by my blog. If you’re looking for specific resources, be sure to check out the topics in the column to the right. Otherwise, feel free to look around! ~ Kerry

Friday, December 11, 2009

Challenged and Encouraged

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, I am reminded of a woman who, through challenging circumstances, became part of our Savior’s family tree.

Ruth’s story is a beautiful example of many truths regarding our responses to life and God’s provision and sovereignty. As I read the book of Ruth this morning, I felt challenged to take a close look at myself.

Self-Sacrificing Love
RUTH—In spite of very difficult circumstances, Ruth chose to love the way Christ described love—in a self-sacrificing way. After the deaths of her father-in-law and husband, Ruth loved Naomi in spite of her own pain. Her love is seen in the words to her desolate mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (1:16-18). Ruth was willing to give up her home and future to care for Naomi.

ME—I have to ask myself, am I willing to love those God has placed in my life with the measure of self-sacrifice Ruth demonstrated? My husband? Children? Parents? In-laws? Aunts, uncles, cousins? Close friends? Do I daily lay aside my desires to demonstrate genuine love and care for them?

Diligent Service
RUTH—In Ruth’s time, two widows living alone were at the mercy of the kindness of others. In that time of great need, she chose to serve diligently. She said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain” (2:2). Ruth was willing to follow the servant girls and pick up what the harvesters left behind. This may have been a menial, even degrading task. But prompted by love, Ruth was faithful and hardworking. Her character was noticed by all who knew her. Boaz said to her, “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character” (3:11).

ME—What is my attitude when I’m faced with menial tasks? Do I grumble, thinking they are below my potential? Or do I serve willingly, realizing it is a test of my true character, as it was for Ruth?

Unquestioning Trust
RUTH—She knew that her mother-in-law and the God she served could be trusted. Naomi asked Ruth to go lay at the feet of Boaz. Ruth was not an Israelite, and this custom may have seemed quite strange to her, but she trusted that Naomi was looking out for her best interest. Ruth simply responded, “I will do whatever you say” (3:5).

ME—Do I willing take the advice of those who are wiser and more experienced than me? Do I take God at His Word—trusting that He will always lead me to what is best?

Discovering God’s Plan
As Ruth loved, served, and trusted, God was divinely orchestrating her steps! Verse 2:3 tells us, “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” Boaz was a generous, kind, worshipper of God who cared for all who worked for him. He married Ruth and together they became the great-grandparents of King David. When we see Ruth’s name mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in first chapter of Matthew, we clearly see that God works His divine plan beautifully through those who love, serve, and trust.

Today I’m challenged by this woman who lived so many years ago! I want to love sacrificially, serve diligently, and trust unquestioningly. As in the life of Ruth, I believe God is ordering my steps and working His plan in and through my life—what an encouraging thought!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not a Picnic on the Beach

Many days, life feels more like a storm on a sea than a picnic on a beach. This morning I read Matthew 14—it is the story of when Jesus’ disciples found themselves out on the Sea of Galilee in a great storm. (Even if you know the story, indulge me and read it again.)

During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31, NIV)

When we are in the midst of any storm, the most important thing we can do is look for Jesus and walk toward Him. He is there in every situation, just waiting for us to turn to Him. And He wants us to trust His instruction. In the midst of that storm, Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. But when he took his eyes off of Him, Peter immediately began to sink.

Think about some of the storms we face, what Jesus says to us in the midst of them, and then what happens when we take our eyes off of Him:

The storm: Someone offends us.
Jesus says: Forgive as I have forgiven you. Turn the other cheek. Trust My love for you. Your security is in Me.
If we take our eyes off of Him: Waves of hurt overwhelm us.

The storm: Finances are really tight.
Jesus says: Seek first the Kingdom of God and I will take care of you. You matter so much to Me. I will meet all of your needs.
If we take our eyes off of Him: Waves of fear and discouragement overwhelm us.

The storm: Circumstances seem out of control.
Jesus says: Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. And My peace will surround you.
If we take our eyes off of Him: Waves of anxiety overwhelm us.

The storm: We are sick.
Jesus says: I am Your Healer. I will never leave you or forsake you. Trust Me. Even when you walk through the shadow of death, I am with you.
If we take our eyes off of Him: Waves of dread and concern overwhelm us.

The storm: Our responsibilities feel bigger than our human capacity.
Jesus says: Come to me. Keep company with me. Learn from me. With me you will find rest for your souls and the productivity your life is demanding.
If we take our eyes off of Him: We don’t even want to get back in the boat, we just want to swim for the shore.

So maybe you can identify with these “waves that overwhelm.” You are like Peter: you are walking in faith, but you’ve taken your eyes off of Jesus for a moment and you feel yourself sinking. Be like Peter and cry out, “Lord, save me!” And then trust that Jesus is reaching out His mighty hand and holding you. Take some time for your soul to rest in His arms. You can trust those arms that hold you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Thankful!

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

It was an extra special celebration because my dad suffered a cardiac arrest on August 28th this year. He was without a heartbeat for more than 20 minutes. Once they shocked his heart and got a regular heartbeat, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Kansas City.

The three-hour drive from Wichita to Kansas City was the longest drive of my life. We all felt we were going to a death watch. My dad was in a coma for several days and in intensive care for nine days—around 225 hours. His condition changed almost hourly, creating quite a roller coaster ride for our emotions. I remember sitting in the quiet, dark waiting room that first night when the thought hit me, “Awwww, it doesn’t look like Daddy is going to make it to their 50th anniversary.” It was heart rendering.

Well, here we are... three months later, and dad is growing stronger every day. We have truly witnessed a miracle! We were able to have a wonderful celebration. Our son Tyler wrote a song for his grandpa while he was in the hospital and sang it for him at the celebration—there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

I have lost all of my grandparents and several uncles and aunts. But this is the first time for me to walk through a near-death experience with someone in my immediate family. My dad is more precious to me today than I ever thought possible. Actually, every moment I spend with those I love feels more valuable.


Don’t take anyone in your life for granted! Soak up every moment with them and don’t waste even the smallest opportunity to show your love.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Real, Not Ideal

A couple of weeks ago, I was reviewing the possible outcomes of a current situation in my life. I could only think of three options. And to be completely honest, none of them seemed appealing. As I thought through each possibility, I had the exact same thought, “Well, that option is definitely not ideal.” My thoughts were quite discouraging. I have to admit, I went to bed that night grumbling at the Lord.

The next morning I was reading The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay, a devotional book divided into 40 readings. That day’s section was entitled “Get Rid of the Ideal, Go for the Real.” Holladay said we can make an idol out of the ideal. What a sobering truth! Immediately I realized that was exactly what I was doing—longing for the “ideal” and thinking it would bring contentment and fulfillment.

Holladay challenged his readers, “The circumstances of your life are not perfect. You are not perfect. The people you love are not perfect. But God is perfect. So instead of trying to perfect the imperfectable, choose to focus on praising the one who is perfect. And then, bolstered by that praise, choose real love.”

Needless to say, I had to repent for the grumblings of my heart. I have spent way too much time trying to perfect the imperfectable. When my thoughts simply focus on the ideal, I fail to enjoy the good in the real circumstances of my life. It was such a good reminder that our circumstances and relationships on earth will never be perfectly ideal! So with gratitude in my heart, I am challenged to embrace the real instead of demanding the ideal.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Surrendering All Expectations to God

I recently read a thought-provoking article* in Gary Smalley's e-newsletter. I thought--I've gotta share this with my friends! It fits perfectly with the principles in the Secrets book!

So here it is...

"A few years ago, God broke through my hardened heart and began to transform my attitudes. The first thing I realized that had to change were my expectations. I had to face up to the fact that my own sense of how things ought to be had come to rule my life and my emotions. It wasn’t that the expectations themselves were wrong—we all have expectations; they’re a natural part of life—but my expectations were all Gary-centered rather than God-centered.
I believe that God had me start by surrendering all my expectations to Him because my unfulfilled expectations were the cause of much of the stress in my life, and they were distracting me from my relationship with God. God called me to let go of all my aspirations so that I could focus on Him.

"God promises that He will meet all of our needs 'according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.' It doesn’t say He’ll meet some of our needs; it says He’ll meet all our needs. I had read this verse countless times over the years, but I wasn’t living according to what it promises. I was driven by my own agenda, my own goals, and my own good ideas. When I started to trust God fully, and really believed He was faithful, I began to experience true peace. This, I believe, is what caused my stress levels to drop so dramatically. --Gary Smalley"

So what about you? Where are your expectations centered today? Maybe now is the perfect time for a moment of surrender . . .

*"Surrendering All Expectations to God," an e-newsletter by Gary Smalley (October 22, 2009). http://www.garysmalley.com.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness—it is something we all know we need. When God forgives us, He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west—never to be remembered against us again (Psalm 102:12). Jesus helps us understand that if we really grasped the depth of God’s forgiveness, we would forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35). He even tells us that if we don’t forgive those who have offended us, our Father in Heaven won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:14,15).

But what does it look like for you and me to forgive those who have hurt us?

Many wrong ideas influence our thoughts about forgiveness, ideas like:
1—I don’t have to forgive if the person who has hurt me doesn’t ask for forgiveness.
2—If I forgive them, it will condone their sinful behavior.
3—Forgiveness means that the relationship is restored and trust is rebuilt.
4—Forgiveness means that I don’t remember the pain or have any negative feelings about the person who has hurt me.

Have you ever been confused by these ideas, or by your feelings? I know I have. Several years ago, someone hurt our family. I knew I needed to forgive them and I prayed fervently for the Lord to help me. But I wasn’t sure how to know if I had really forgiven them. When I saw them, I would get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. Those feelings would cause me to question if I had actually forgiven them.

Rick Warren describes forgiveness in a very tangible way, in the 40 Days of Love videos. He says forgiveness is three things:
1—relinquishing my rights to get even,
2—responding to evil with good, and
3—repeating those two things as many times as necessary.

Warren also helps us to understand that forgiveness happens in a moment, but trust must be rebuilt over time. And in order for there to be a healthy relationship, the offender must also make some changes.

I have come to understand that the choice to forgive says a great deal about the spiritual condition of the person. George Wood in his newest book, Living in the Spirit, says it this way: “When you ‘bump’ a genuinely Spirit-filled person, you will get love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. But when you ‘bump’ a person who professes to be Spirit-filled but doesn’t have the evidence, out will come meanness, nastiness, bitterness, and hostility.”

It is so helpful to understand these truths about forgiveness. These choices have nothing to do with our feelings. Of course we will remember the pain of hurtful situations. And human relationships change when a person intentionally hurts us. But we can be obedient to the command to forgive. Remember, when you choose to give up your rights to get even, you are forgiving. When you are depending upon the Holy Spirit to respond to evil with His goodness, you are obeying Jesus’ command to forgive.

Be encouraged—when you choose to obey, your feelings will eventually come around. Someone recently said to me, “You can never feel your way into right behavior, but you can behave your way into right feelings.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Realignment . . .

This morning I read Psalm 26, and verses two and three really stood out to me:

“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”

Knowing that God is holy and all-knowing, we may be hesitant to say, “God, test me, try me, examine me.” But King David had an accurate view of God. As we read the psalms, we see that David knew God’s unfathomable power as his Creator and sovereign King. David knew God’s unending supply as his Sustainer and Portion. David knew God’s limitless wisdom as his Teacher and Guide. David knew of God’s justice as his Standard and Judge . . . But David also knew God’s love as his Shepherd and Redeemer (“for your love is ever before me”).

I’m so thankful that God is who He is! As we understand His full character, our trust in Him will grow. Absolute trust brings us to the place where we can we join our hearts with David and say, “Test me! Try me! Examine me! For I know of your love, and I want to walk completely in your truth!”

We can be assured that tests and trials are for our ultimate good. And we can know that when He points out something in our character that is offensive to Him, that He is leading us to truth and life. David said it this way in Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT), “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Reading this psalm this morning prompted me to pray . . . Lord, I want my trust to grow to where I humbly walk through tests, allowing them to accomplish Your purposes in my life. May I daily allow Your Word to point out those things in me that are offensive to You, and may I submissively align myself to Your Truth—completely trusting Your love every step of the way!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflections on "Humility"

Everyone struggles with pride and self-centeredness—it is the tendency of all humanity. The Bible has a lot to say about it—like “pride comes before destruction,” and “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

When I met with Dr. Gary Smalley to film the Secrets DVD, he shared his new understanding of true humility. He said humility isn’t putting ourself down—it is completely depending upon God. It was such an interesting conversation that it prompted me to think more about humility.

When you think about it, we are all completely dependent upon God. After all, He is the Creator and we are the created. Our existence, everything we have, and every experience are from His creative hand. Quite honestly, every breath we breathe and every beat of our heart is a gift from Him. Pride believes we are self-made and self-sufficient. And some in their pride even deny His existence.

While we are all totally, 100% dependent upon God, the proud refuse to accept their dependency. However, the humble awaken every day to acknowledge God and admit their dependence on Him. Jesus describes this dependency in John 15. He says that God is the Gardener, He (Jesus) is the Vine, and we are the branches. And as a branch, our job is to stay connected and dependent; then everything we need will flow in and through our life like fruit on a branch.

Take a look at what Jesus says,
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Every day we have to choose to acknowledge our dependence on Him and work hard at staying firmly connected to the Vine. When we are connected, we can trust the Gardner will feed, water, and prune the branches (us) at just the right times. He will make sure we have enough sunshine to grow and enough storms to strengthen our connection. And we can rest knowing the type of fruit that we bear is completely up to Him.

May we all experience the grace He gives to the humble!

Friday, October 16, 2009

25 Things That Hinder Respect and Love

Recently, a friend of mine spoke for a marriage retreat on a cruise. [I know what you are thinking, “Where can we sign up for that assignment?!” I’m wondering the same thing. :) ] Since she taught a couple of the Secrets sessions, she added the following list to Session Four. When she e-mailed it to me, I thought it was worth posting.

As you read through this list, take a few minutes to give yourself a quick review. Make sure you are not doing anything to make your spouse feel disrespected or unloved. Remember, this is a self-test—not a spouse review! We are only responsible for our own behavior. As we sow respect and love, we can expect to reap respect and love.

A Person Feels Disrespected and Unloved When Their Spouse…

1. belittles them in private or public
2. manipulates with the silent treatment
3. prioritizes other relationships, work, or hobbies over their marriage
4. fails to take their opinions and feelings seriously
5. neglects their own responsibilities
6. hides things or fails to communicate about major decisions
7. is selfish
8. neglects personal spiritual health
9. won’t leave the past alone
10. doesn’t provide verbal affirmation
11. simply accommodates them sexually
12. fails to respect their role as parent or undermines their authority
13. lacks appreciation for their contribution to the family
14. talks negatively about them to parents or children or friends
15. nags them, especially if they are aware of the problem
16. has lost the ability to have fun
17. lacks interest in their career or activities
18. is rude and careless with their words
19. is careless of their appearance
20. consistently assumes their motives are wrong
21. negatively compares them to others (“Why can’t you be more like Bob?”)
22. is unwilling to change
23. lacks self-control
24. breaks promises
25. compliments others, but not them

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feelings…Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings….

Jesus told us, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

Have you ever really thought that? Jesus commands us to love. He doesn’t suggest it or highly recommend it, He actually commands it.

So many times we think of love as a feeling. And we can have a tremendous amount of guilt when we don’t “feel” loving. How can Jesus command a “feeling?” Tom Holladay in his book, The Relationship Principles of Jesus, says you cannot command an emotion, but you can command an action.

Love is so much more than a feeling…it is an action! When Jesus commands us to love one another He is not saying, “Feel loving toward one another.” He is saying “ACT loving toward one another.”

Tom Holladay says—
“When faced with the challenge to act with love, no matter how we may feel, there is something in us that rebels. We think, ‘I don’t feel right about that. I’d be such a phony to act with love toward someone when I don’t feel love. It’s not real if I don’t feel like it. I’d be a hypocrite.’

“Yet we do things all the time that we don’t feel like doing. If you woke up this morning and didn’t feel like going to work, you wouldn’t call and say, ‘I don’t feel like being a work today, so I’m not coming. It would be very hypocritical for me to come to work this morning.’ No, you go in anyway…

“Do you think Jesus felt like dying on the cross? Of course not. Jesus didn’t face that morning thinking, ‘I feel like experiencing the most excruciating pain, the most anguished disgrace, the most wrenching burden of mankind’s sin.’ In fact, the night before his death, he prayed in Gethsemane, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.’ In Jesus’ prayer we see that he didn’t follow his feelings. Instead, he prayed, ‘Yet not my will, but yours be done’…This kind of love can only come from God!”

We cannot allow our feelings to determine our actions! When we respond with love, even when we don’t feel loving, we are not being hypocritical—we are being obedient.

As we are fully submissive and obedient to Christ, we can allow HIS LOVE to flow through our responses and actions! I have discovered that when I don’t feel loving, but I choose to act in love, my feelings quickly begin to line up with my actions.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)

Joy and our obedience to the command to love are interdependent… hmmm… something to really think about…

Friday, October 2, 2009

Raising Kids in a Difficult Marriage

For 20 heartwrenching years, Frances prayed for her husband to find Jesus. Their marriage was far from easy--but Frances held onto God, and He gave her the strength to set an unforgettable example for her four children.

Melvina, one of Frances’ daughters, shared with me three memorable things her mother did during those 20 difficult years:

“Mother was faithful to church. Attending church without your companion is not always easy. But her determination to be faithful to church, with or without Daddy, taught us values that shaped eternal destinies for generations. As a child, I remember how people at church loved us. We could hardly wait to get there. As His children, we learned that 'in joy or in sorrow, today and tomorrow . . .' Jesus will walk with us. We learned that He answers prayer and that He will save our lost loved ones.

“Depending on the Holy Spirit was also a top priority for our Mother. She experienced the Holy Spirit in the way that the book of Acts speaks of. And the Fruit of the Spirit of JOY prevailed in our home. Even under the heat of a companion who is under the heavy conviction of the Holy Spirit, mother just kept praying, loving, and believing . . . never giving up until the answer came!

“Mother, by example, taught her children to ‘look for the good in people.’ Never once did I hear her put Daddy down or speak of him in a negative manner. (Yes, it is true, children are more perceptive than we realize of how things are at home.) Bitterness and resentment can be planted deep in the hearts of children by a broken-hearted parent transferring their pain to a child. But we rose up and called our Mother ‘blessed’ and continued loving our Daddy and praying for him until he came to Jesus. Today, my three siblings and I have not had to deal with bitterness. Instead we rejoice!”

Whether or not your husband knows Jesus, we can all consider the impression we are leaving on our children! Someday in the future, we’ll share Frances’ full story—I know you’ll be encouraged!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hope After an Affair: Sarah's Story

When priorities get out of line and boundaries become blurred, it can be devastating to a marriage. Sadly, affairs are becoming more common on television, in politics, and even in the church. But in the midst of this, there is hope! My good friend sent me a link to a blog by a young lady named Sarah. She poignantly recounts the slippery slope that led to her affair, and how God redeemed her and her marriage. I applaud this woman for her courage and honesty. I pray as you read this true story, you will be encouraged to keep your marriage as a top priority (second to God, of course). Nothing on earth is more worth our sincerest efforts!

Click here to read Sarah' story.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Southern Missouri Women's Retreat













I spent the past two weekends at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. It is a very sentimental place for me for several reasons… I attended church camp there as a child and teenager. And I had some very significant encounters with God on those campgrounds.

In addition to going to camp there, my wonderful in-laws live there. They have had a home on the Southern Missouri Campgrounds for the past 28 years. Each year our family spends at least one week at the lake—so, every inch of scenery is filled with many precious memories. For me, it is one of the most restful places on the planet .

Sherry Welch, the Southern Missouri District Women’s Director, asked me to speak at their fall retreats. It was a JOY to participate in those two events. I got to see many old friends and even some of my family was able to attend. My assistant, Lindsey, was able to join me for the second weekend—that was a special treat!















The weather was perfect and the water was as smooth as glass. But even better than that, God was so faithful to meet with us in that familiar place. God always speaks when we take time from our busy schedules and turn our attention to Him! I pray that the Truth from His Word continues to saturate the hearts and minds of all who attended.

PS--If you're a young woman living in southern Missouri, there's a new Facebook group for you! Just search for "Southern Missouri District Young Women's Ministry".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Miracles…

My family has just experienced an incredible miracle!

On August 28, my dad had a cardiac arrest. He was setting up his guitar to play for a church in Archie, Missouri when he collapsed. CPR was started right away, and EMTs arrived on the scene very quickly, but dad still didn’t have a heart beat when they put him in the ambulance. Doctors at a nearby hospital were able to get dad’s heart beating again. They put him on a ventilator and life-flighted him to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.

All of the family was called and we were not given much hope—only 5% of people who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, and most of them have significant damage to the brain, lungs, and kidneys. Doctors decided to give dad a hypothermia treatment for cardiac arrest victims (lowering the core body temperature to 90 degrees for 24 hours). This treatment helps to prevent swelling of the brain and damage to other organs. Doctors gave medications to keep dad in a coma during this procedure.

After 24 hours, they began the warm up process and removed the coma medications. Miraculously, dad started to wake up and respond to us…we were amazed! Over the next several days, there were struggles to overcome, but dad continued to recover. He was in CICU for 8 days, moved to the next level of care on the 9th day, and released from the hospital on the 12th day!

My dad has no apparent damage to any organ. He is astonished at God’s goodness and knows that God brought him back for a reason. He is looking forward to each day discovering what that might be. In the past few weeks, every one of us has created some precious memories with dad that we will cherish forever. It is hard to believe that he is home and getting stronger every day.

My mom showed us all how to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. She faced every minute by resting in God and relying on His provision in the moment. When we are squeezed by life’s trial, what is on the inside comes pouring out—and my mom is one of the most beautiful women I know. Her great faith was evident in the peace that poured from her being. When my father collapsed, a woman was singing, “We don’t need to understand. We just need to hold His hand.” Mom believed those were words from her Lord, just for her in that moment. She clung to Him tightly and He sustained her every step.

Not only did we witness a miracle of healing, we saw many other miracles too…
· the supporting love of family
· the life-giving kindness of strangers
· the encouraging compassion of health-care providers
· the uplifting support of friends
· and most of all the amazing, sustaining grace and strength of God.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are You Happy?

Every day I’m more convinced that enjoyment and fulfillment are a result of right living. If we live to simply seek pleasure, we easily become self-focused, and the “happiness” that we long for completely eludes us. Genuine joy seems just beyond our grasp.

I love how Dr. Gary Smalley explains this on the Secrets DVD (Session 6). He says that Christ calls us to a life of service. When we live our lives loving and serving others, we will experience the abundant life Jesus came to offer. Jesus even said that when we lose our life, we gain it (Luke 9:24).

I believe this is why so few people live happy lives . . . they think that doing pleasurable things will bring happiness. But God’s ways are always so much different than ours. He wants us to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others. Because we were created for these loving relationships, we will never be truly fulfilled by anything else. Serving and loving God and others really does bring an abundant life!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Year 1959

1959 was a significant year for our family. You see, on June 7, 1959 Ted Clarensau married Fran DeNoon, and on October 24, 1959 Phil Ramsey married Helen Osborne. Mike and I were the firstborn children of these two young couples.

Last weekend we celebrated Ted and Fran’s 50th wedding anniversary, and we will celebrate with my parents over Thanksgiving. As we were driving home from our recent celebration in Kansas City, I was sweetly overwhelmed as I considered the countless ways these two couples continue to bless our lives and the lives of our adult children.

Our parents committed their lives to Christ when Mike and I were babies. They raised us in homes that consistently prioritized the worship of God, obedience to God, and a strong commitment to marriage and family.

Recently I’ve been reading the story of Israel in the Old Testament. I can’t help but notice the clear demonstration of blessing for those who trust and obey the Lord. He blessed those who gave their whole hearts to Him and obeyed Him consistently. God led them, fought for them, and provided for them. And conversely, when the Israelites were unfaithful to God, their choices led them into horrible situations. First Chronicles 9:1 says, “The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.” Sin always leads to bondage of some kind!

Yet I feel so blessed to have parents and in-laws who consistently love and obey God, love one another, and love us. Our lives have been marked with so much freedom—freedom from the pain of infidelity, addiction, abuse, crime, . . . Their choices provided the type of freedom that only dwells within a safe and secure home. I love all four parents so much for tenaciously pursuing righteousness and love!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Secrets for Unmarried Women

“Will Secrets benefit women who are single or single-again?” Several people asked this question at a recent conference, and my answer was always YES! The principles from Secrets are important for every woman, no matter what her stage of life or marriage.

As I wrote Secrets, I taught it to a large group of women in my church. Several in the class were single or divorced women. Shortly after our final session, a divorced woman told me, “This class has been so healing for me. I thought our divorce was all his fault, and I have been extremely bitter and angry. But now I see that I could have responded differently, and I’ve actually taken responsibility for the woman I am. I know if God brings me a second chance at marriage, I will be a different person for allowing His Word to shape my ideas.”

Another single divorcee and 7 young unmarried women attend my current Secrets small group. All of them are able to apply the ideas to their unique situations—and improve their interactions with men at home, work, school, and church. Several of the young women have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn these principles before they are in a relationship.

Quite honestly, I wish I heard these truths before I was married. I’m sure many lessons I would still have learned the “hard way,” but the principles would have been there to guide me. So I absolutely love sharing these secrets with my unmarried friends—it is a great way to invest in their futures!

Since I believe that Secrets is beneficial for women in all stages of life, I have written questions to help single women apply the principles from each session. Please encourage the single women in your life to use these discussion questions to help make Secrets even more applicable.

Click here to download discussion questions for unmarried women (PDF).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Miracle in a 40-Year Marriage

“We are a couple again—not just two separate people living in the same house,” Mary professed. She was part of the Secrets group I recently had the privilege of visiting. The small--but incredibly diverse--group of women was led by my friend Guyla and her daughter Melissa. I heard Mary’s story after the small group meeting, and I was amazed at what God had done in her 40-year marriage.

Today I’m excited to share Mary’s story with you. In a recent article written by Guyla, Mary explained the details:

"My husband and I have been married for 40 years. But for over twelve years of that time, he was gone from home except on weekends and holidays. This left me with raising two children and the bulk of everyday decision-making for our family.

"Gary retired about four years ago, and adjusting to his return has been difficult for us. I decided to attend the Secrets small group just to see if there might be something I could learn to bring our relationship closer. I was definitely having issues concerning who was the ‘head of the household’ after running things myself for so many years.

"When I started reading the book, I thought to myself, ‘These principles will not work with us.’ But after I prayed about the class, God began making me feel very strongly that I should put these practices to work. I am so glad that I trusted in the Lord and His proven message. Almost immediately there was a change in our relationship and marriage. We are closer now than ever before, and I feel that we are a couple again—not just two separate people living in the same house. I am planning to attend the second Secrets group, because I know that there will be more blessings to come from this study."

Wow. This makes me think, even if Mary is the only woman impacted by Secrets, it was completely worth writing!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

26 Years of Marriage--and Loving It!

Last week, Mike and I celebrated 26 years of marriage. Wow! It is hard to believe that I’ve been Kerry Clarensau five years longer than I was Kerry Ramsey. Yes, that makes me almost “mature”--at least in age. I was 21 years old when we got married, so now I’m 47! (I was happy to read this week that I’m still a “middle adult.” Mature adults are 50-65, and senior adults are 65+. Whew . . . I still might have two more adult stages to go. I feel younger just knowing that.)

When I consider all the life stages that Mike and I have transitioned through together, I am flooded with many different emotions. The overriding emotion is difficult to describe. I guess I can explain it this way—Mike and I have shared so much life together that I can’t imagine walking away from this relationship or doing anything to damage what we have built together. The love we enjoy is grounded in so many shared experiences.

Mike knew me and loved me as a young, talkative, full-of-life, fearless, immature woman. I must admit that the outside was much more attractive at age 21—thinner, less wrinkles, no stretch marks, . . . the list of physical changes gets a little longer each year. But the inside, well that’s a different story . . . I was quite self-focused, impatient, . . . let’s not spend any more time with that list. :)

Life and its many experiences has a way of changing who we are. Someone said change is inevitable, but the impact of change is up to us. We will either grow better or bitter. And it seems that every day presents a series of choices that shape who we are becoming. Mike and I have faced countless experiences together—challenging us and stretching us. Some experiences we embraced, and they helped us to grow. Others we resisted, and it caused us to stagnate for a time. But overall, I believe we have grown and changed throughout the years.

Yesterday a friend told me that her husband has been married to five different women—all of them her. (LOL) Mike may feel like he’s been married to many “different women” in the past 26 years. But he has been so gracious to embrace each one. And I’m sure if God allows us 26 more years, the individuals we will be in 2036 will be shaped by our responses to life’s upcoming situations. So far, I’ve loved the ride and the many transformations that have taken place. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! And to be completely honest, I absolutely LOVE the man that Mike is today! Don’t get me wrong, I loved the 22-year-old Mike, but the 48-year-old Mike is amazing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Respect—A Reflection of Our Character

Have you ever thought about the respect and dignity Christ showed to individuals? Think about the woman who was caught in adultery, tax collectors who were known for swindling, children who were clamoring for His attention, Pilate who questioned Him, religious leaders who despised Him, close friends who abandoned Him, and even the soldiers who killed Him . . .

Christ was able to interact respectfully with these individuals because of who He was. He never allowed the negative behavior of someone else to change who He was. He didn’t act disrespectfully because someone was unworthy of respect—even when He was mistreated and despised. Quite honestly, the dignity He gave to them was a direct reflection of His impeccable character.

The same is true for us. The respect or disrespect we give to others is an outward expression of our inner character. This is seen most clearly in the relationships closest to us—especially the relationship with our spouse.

It is quite embarrassing to admit, but there have been times when I have been disrespectful to my husband Mike. I even found myself thinking, When my husband starts acting in a way that I think is more respect-worthy, I’ll show him respect. But I was actually saying, He is not living up to my expectations and I will make sure he knows it. . . . This attitude never improved anything; it only made our relationship more strained.

I came to understand that my disrespectful attitudes had less to do with Mike and more to do with my own character flaws. My lack of respect revealed that I was self-centered, impatient, critical, discontent, judgmental, unkind, and demanding. All of these “attractive” qualities revealed my immaturity and lack of Christlike character.

When we find ourselves being disrespectful or unkind to our husband, we should ask ourselves what is at the center of our behavior. Are we focused on ourselves? Or are we allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us, change us, and flow through our lives? Galatians 5 tells us that when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, Christ’s character will be seen in our behavior. Our lives will be marked with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

You see, when we are self-focused (thinking of only our needs) or self-reliant (relying on our own strengths and abilities) we will struggle to be respectful and kind. But when we submissively allow God to fill and lead our lives, Christ will be seen in us. We will be able to respect others and offer dignity to every one—not because they’ve earned it, but because of who we are in Christ!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Secrets for Military Wives

When I wrote Secrets, I wanted it to be adaptable for many settings—individual study, one-on-one mentoring, general small groups, or specific groups. One of the specific groups I hoped to minister to is military wives. They have many unique challenges, and I felt it would be good to have some specific questions to help them apply Secrets to their distinct situation.

I asked a long-time family friend, Barbara Howard, to read the material and help us develop these questions. Barb is currently an English Professor at Central Bible College. But she is more than qualified to write these questions because she was married for 28 years to the late Chaplain (Col.) David Howard, U.S. Army. Together they lived a military life and faced all the unique situations it brings to marriage.

Today I'd like to share with you the handout we created. If you are a military wife or would like to start a Secrets small group specifically for them, I hope you will find these questions beneficial to your discussion. I pray that many military families are strengthened as wives apply God’s truth specifically to their important position—loving their military man!

Click here to download discussion questions for military wives (PDF).

Monday, June 29, 2009

What’s On Your Mind?

I recently started a new Secrets small group in my church. As I was preparing the session one Saturday morning, I began to realize something in a very real way—my thoughts really play an important role in my personal emotional health and in the health of my marriage. Although this particular principle permeates the Secrets material, it has never been as clear to me as it was that morning.

Scripture has a lot to say about our thoughts. We are told to guard our hearts, to take our thoughts captive, and to think on things that are true. In fact, every attitude and action is shaped by the thoughts I allow to dominate my mind.

Here is how I would describe those thoughts:

HEALTHY, LIFE-GIVING THOUGHTS

Thoughts about ME
I am responsible for my own my growth and change.

This can only happen as I actively pursue God by loving and obeying Him. As I allow the Holy Spirit to fill and lead my life, the fruit of the Spirit will be demonstrated in my attitudes and actions.

Thoughts about MY HUSBAND
I am responsible to love and serve him.

My thoughts of him should be filled with looking for ways to express my love for him. I am most like Christ when I love and sacrificially serve others.


DRAINING, DISCOURAGING THOUGHTS

Thoughts about ME
I would be okay if my husband would change and grow.

No one can change another person—these thoughts leave me drained and unproductive. And quite honestly, I would still be discontented even if my husband was perfect—because only a right personal relationship with God will bring true fulfillment.

Thoughts about MY HUSBAND
He needs to love and serve me more.

These thoughts cause me to be self-focused and ungrateful. If left unchecked, I become prideful and bitter.


Even knowing this principle, I can easily fall into wrong thoughts patterns, thinking—Mike really needs to change… or I really wish he would express his love for me by… And when I dwell on these thoughts, I am continually discontented. I’m focusing on things I cannot change and neglecting those things I can change. Wrong thought patterns always lead to grumbling and bitterness.

However, when I purposely focus on my responsibility for my personal growth and change, and when I think of ways to love and serve Mike, there is health and life for me emotionally and for our relationship. For when I’m am loving God and growing to be more like Christ, I’m fulfilling my purpose. And when I’m focused on loving Mike, I’m being obedient to Christ’s mission to love and serve others!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ignoring What He Values

I just read a poignant picture of what can happen when we disregard what our spouse values—which can easily happen when personalities clash! Author Alicia Chole paints it perfectly in this excerpt a friend e-mailed to me. My friend typed this as a handout for the Secrets group she is leading at her church—a powerful way to illustrate the principles discussed in the book! I know you will enjoy it and that you'll pass it along—

Give Gifts

She was methodical.
He was impulsive.

She planned ahead.
He valued spontaneity.

She led with her head.
He led with his heart.

They were different but difference was not their problem.
Their problem grew from disrespecting their differences.

She needed him to balance the checkbook,
to finish a project.

He needed her to play,
to do the unexpected.

They could have chosen to give each other gifts.

She could have given him unplanned days.
He could have given her completed goals.

But they withheld these gifts and decided not to value what each other valued.

He told her she needed to "lighten up."
She told him he needed to "grow up."

Disrespecting their differences created distance that led to disaster...


Give gifts.
Value difference.
Love long.

From Pure Joy by Alicia Britt Chole (Thomas Nelson)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Truth about "Submission" in Marriage

Submission is a word that can evoke a wide range of emotions and images in a woman’s mind. But today I came across an EXCELLENT sermon on healthy submission in marriage, by John Piper. I want to share the sermon’s link with you, and I encourage you to pass it on! I hope you enjoy discovering what submission is and isn’t. . . and how this often misunderstood “S” word can positively affect your marriage!

Click here to see John Piper's sermon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Experience—the Best Teacher













This past weekend, my son Blake returned from a five-month YWAM (Youth with a Mission) experience. Seeing him again brought tears to my eyes, and the realization that he was a different man.

Blake left Wichita on January 4th as a 20-year-old Christian-American student simply desiring to explore his calling. He has felt a tug toward missions since he was about 12 years old and has been on three week-long trips with us and our church family. Last fall, Blake asked Mike and me how we felt about him taking a semester off of college and participating in YWAM. We both agreed that he could potentially learn more during five months immersed in missions, than during one semester at our local college.

Needless to say, from January to June, Blake experienced much more than just his 21st birthday.

He spent the first three months on a YWAM base in Mendoza, Argentina, completing DTS (Discipleship Training School). While there, he:
· Maintained a rigid schedule of classes, chores, and soccer conditioning
· Washed his clothes by hand in a tub and hung them out to dry
· Shared one bathroom with eight guys
· Lived with no air conditioning or heat
· Drank powdered milk and ate unfamiliar foods
· Didn’t have a cell phone or consistent access to the Internet
· Got to know guard dogs (and their value)
· Discovered how to find his way on the city buses and the importance of returning to the base before dark
· Improved his aptitude for understanding and speaking Spanish
· Woke up every morning to the view of the Andes mountains
· Experienced a new depth of relationship with God
· And saw God provide in amazing ways

Then he completed eight weeks of outreach—four weeks in Brazil and four in South Africa, where he:
· Encountered more diverse cultures
· Stayed in homes of extremely generous Christian families
· Got to know some amazing people
· Ministered to street children
· Played soccer with Muslims men, women, and children
· Held soccer clinics for Muslim and Hindu children
· Taught English
· Preached in a Zulu church
· Preached in the streets
· Attended a variety churches hearing—Spanish, Portuguese, Zulu, Zutu, Afrikaans
· Went on a safari
· Performed dramas in schools and parks
· Held a severely disabled child in his arms
· Looked into the eyes of many orphans
· And depended on God to open doors and provide strength and protection

I can’t put into words the joy I felt as I saw him walk down the walkway at the airport on Sunday. But the greater joy is getting to know the 21-year-old man who came home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More on "Finding True Fulfillment"

Several years ago, I led a weekly Bible study for high school girls in Springfield, Missouri. We met together very faithfully for about three years. Many of the girls were young enough when we started the study that they were able to attend all three years. Needless to say, when you spend that much time together, strong connections are developed.

Mike and I moved from Springfield almost nine years ago. And saying good-bye to those girls was one of the more difficult parts of the move. It is always so much fun to hear from one of them. A few weeks ago, one of the girls sent me a Facebook message. She is engaged and recently signed up for a small group in her church called Secrets: Transforming Your Life and Marriage. When she got the book, she was surprised to see that I was the author.

After sending a few FB messages back and forth, we decided to get together for dinner last week when I was in Springfield. What a joy to see this grown woman serving God, finishing her master’s degree, getting married, caring about important things… It was awesome!

It was fun to hear her perspective of Secrets. She told me that as a group they were starting session two, but her mind was still on session one—“Finding True Fulfillment.” We discussed just how much there is to think about with the one concept of allowing God to meet your deepest needs. We talked a lot about the frustration of expecting someone else to meet those God-sized responsibilities and the strain it can put on relationships.

Later in the week, Lindsey, my assistant reminded me that there was a large portion of the original manuscript that wasn’t included in final version of session one. [The book was just getting too long. :)] So we’ve decided to include it in this blog. Hope this inspires even more thought…

Click here to download the Session One mini-study.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friends

My good friend Karen Yancey recently quoted from John Ortberg’s book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. He cites a study on relationships that tracked 7,000 people over nine years:
“Researchers found that the most isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections. People who lived an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e. smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, or alcohol use) but had strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. In other words, it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone!”
I love that! I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships this morning. Today I’m having lunch with a close friend who is moving to Hawaii next Wednesday. And I’m weepy just thinking about it. . . Almost nine years ago, Michelle, her husband Kore, and their two children moved to Wichita a couple of weeks before we did. And we’ve shared a lot of life together since then. . .

When our boys were 12 years old, we stood together on the sidelines of their soccer games talking (and cheering them on, of course). Several years later, those two guys were college roommates. We had great fun helping them get settled in their apartment. Then we cried together over the “empty” feelings we were experiencing. Today our boys are 21!

Michelle is great with details (not my strength) and together we’ve planned many women’s events for our church. We’ve gone on a missionary trip to Warsaw, Poland. And I think Michelle has attended every Bible study I’ve led over the past nine years. So needless to say, we’ve laughed together, cried together, worked together, studied together, prayed together, and eaten together. . .

I don’t think we’ve ever eaten a “Twinkie”, but we’ve shared countless desserts! I couldn’t begin to count the meals we’ve shared. Michelle and I are in the same breakfast club and are great lunch buddies. (I don’t know who will go to Doc Green’s with me now, Michelle.) And she and her husband meet Mike and me for dinner fairly often—not to mention the monthly deacons’ dinners we've shared together. So when I think that today will be our last meal together for a while, it makes me want to cry.

But, even in the sorrow of saying goodbye, I want to thank the Lord for bringing such wonderful friends into our life nine years ago! Michelle and Kore, you have blessed our lives in more ways than we can possibly count! According to Ortberg, you may have added years to our life! :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Can We Judge a Painting While the Artist Still Holds the Brush?

It seems that God always sends me the same message in several ways. This morning I was reading in Max Lucado’s daily devotional, Grace for the Moment. The devotion for May 8th is entitled, “Get Out of the Judgment Seat” (based on Matthew 7:2, “You will be judged in the same way you judge others.”)

Lucado, one of my favorite wordsmiths, says—“We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn’t see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk, but cannot see the tack in her shoe. . . . Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God’s work is complete?”

What would the verdict look like if we judged Moses right after killing the Egyptian; or David immediately after his affair, murder, and cover-up; or the woman at the well before her encounter with Jesus; or Peter the moment after the rooster crowed? The list is endless. . .

Shortly after reading these words (still pondering Lucado’s challenge) I began preparing for my adult class. This Sunday we are taking a close look at James 2:1-13, a section titled “Favoritism Forbidden” in the New International Version. James tells us very clearly that judging a person by their outward appearance is the opposite of Christlike behavior.

One of the resources I’m reading to prepare for our study is Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Mature, a study of the book of James. Wiersbe says that “Christ is the link between us and others”—not appearance, achievement, ability, or affluence. “When we encounter another Christian, we can accept them because Christ lives in them. When we encounter someone who is not a Christian, we can accept them because Christ died for them.”

We must learn to love (James 2:8) and to show mercy (James 2:13), for we are all law breakers in desperate need of God’s amazing grace. Eugene Peterson translates James 2: 13 this way, “For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.”

I am challenged today! I want to be known for my “kind mercy” not my “harsh judgment.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If Your Husband Has Yet to Believe in Jesus

I’ve been asked—“Will Secrets work for a woman whose husband is not a believer in Jesus?” When I wrote Secrets, I kept in mind that many women reading it would be in that situation. And today I’ve written a few more "Insights and Questions" just for women whose husbands don't believe in Jesus.

If you are leading a group study for women whose husbands are not believers, you could use this document as an additional guide with each session. Or if your group is mixed, you could give this as a handout.

To download "Insights and Questions," click here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Love Letter

Mortimer J. Adlerin his classic, How to Read a Book, makes this observation:

“The one time people read for all they are worth is when they are in love and are reading a love letter. They read every word three ways. They read between the lines and the margins… Then, if never before, or after, they read carefully and in depth.”
My son Blake has been out of the country since January 4th. He doesn’t have access to the Internet very often, so we are always excited to talk to him on Skype. Generally, the Internet connection isn’t strong enough for video chat, but we get to instant message. Sometimes he gets access to the Internet when we are unavailable, and he will send us a quick e-mail.

While these are not the kind of “love letters” Adlerin is referring to, I love and miss my son so much—I simply devour his notes. It would be embarrassing to admit how many times I read Blake’s e-mails. I read them at least three times immediately (not kidding) and will re-read them many times until we hear from him again. The first time, I read very quickly to make sure he is okay. Then I read slower, looking closely at the details. I examine every phrase, looking for the emotion behind the words—wondering if he is happy or overwhelmed. By the third time I read, I can hear him saying the words and imagine the look on his face.

After considering how I read Blake’s e-mails, I had to ask myself, Do I read God’s Word with the same intensity? Do I read every word—reflecting on what I learn about God and seeking to understand what He expects of me? Do I allow His Word to examine my motives and penetrate my thoughts and attitudes? Do I read it often enough to allow it to renew my mind?

Hmmm. . . what a challenge! I can only imagine what my spiritual life would be like if I read God’s Word like a love letter. . .

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Smalley Relationship Center

I just visited the Smalley Relationship Center Web site, and I spent way too much time engrossed in all the helpful resources there. (Meanwhile, my to-do list is glaring at me...) I’m excited to share with you what I found! Here’s a quick snapshot:

Assessments—This is my favorite part! These online tests are free, quick, and very interesting. If you’ve ever wondered, “What’s my core fear?”, “What’s my personality type?”, “How healthy is my marriage?”, “Do people feel safe with me?” ...then you can take one of these tests and get instant results!

Articles—I loved how there were so many topics covered—everything from “being a perfectionist”, to “struggles with marital intimacy”, to “resolving anger with your teen.” These are quick reads, practical and insightful, written by Gary Smalley and other experts.

Seminars & Conferences—Wow, Gary Smalley is a busy guy! He speaks at numerous conferences nationwide. For example, “Love and Laughter” is an interactive and fun marriage getaway. “I Promise” shares the 5 promises every couple (married or engaged) needs to make. Check this out—there might be a seminar coming to your area soon!

Of course, I love all the books and DVD’s Gary Smalley produces—and information about them is on the site as well. If you’ve never browsed http://www.smalleyonline.com/, you are in for a treat!

Monday, April 20, 2009

MWC Women's Retreat

We just had our ninth annual women’s retreat at Maranatha Worship Center! It’s hard to believe there have been NINE! If my memory is right, about 20 women attended our first retreat. We actually met in a hotel suite, and we sat on the sofa, beds, and floor.

Now eight years later, one hundred and thirty women registered for the retreat! It was quite a change from the first one in 2001…but many things remained the same. Thirteen of us who attended the first retreat were there this past weekend.

Every woman attending received a copy of the Secrets book. It was so much fun to share the study with them. Many of these women attended the pilot class I taught last year, around sixty of them participated in the video production, several spoke on the promo DVD, and four of them shared testimonies on the video. So they are very much a part of this material. I feel so blessed to be in their lives. Take a look at the beautiful women of MWC!












































Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Fresh Challenge

During this time of year, I’m always inspired to read the passages of Scripture that surround the death and resurrection of Jesus. I especially enjoy reading the verses in red. Recently I was drawn to John 21:15-18, where Jesus is speaking directly to Peter. Prior to this conversation, Peter denied knowing Jesus. In John 21, after His resurrection, Christ led Peter through an experience that would remove the shame of his denial, re-establish their relationship, and challenge Peter to a life of significant service. In essence, Christ’s death and resurrection does the same for each of us—removes our shame, establishes relationship, and challenges us to a life of purpose.

Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. In the context of this conversation, I see three significant things for us to learn:

#1—Jesus’ question reveals the type of relationship He wants to have with us—one based on love. When we understand and receive His great love for us, our response can be one of love. Our love for God is the most important thing in life, and we must do all we can to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

#2—When Peter claimed he loved Jesus, the challenge from Jesus was to “feed My lambs” or “take care of My sheep.” Jesus calls all of us to serve others, and this must flow from our love for Him.

#3—Our love for God is most clearly seen when we serve one another. Since Christ’s ascension, He no longer dwells among us in human form. We have become His hands and His feet. He longs for us to be dispensers of His grace, compassion, hope, and insight. He wants us to care for His people.

Recently I’ve received a fresh challenge to walk into every situation in light of this mandate—How can I care for the individuals I’m encountering as He would? Is His love and grace flowing unhindered through my actions and words? Do the individuals need his peace? Or do they need the hope He came to offer? Maybe they need His insight or truth. They might need His compassion through a hug or a simple act of kindness.

I don’t want to become distracted by routines, possessions, achievements, or accolades. I want the love of Christ to lavishly flow through my life to every person I encounter. I want to take great care of the individuals He died to rescue.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Are You Thinking About?

Last Tuesday I had the privilege of introducing the Secrets Bible study to the employees at the national office during their chapel service. The guest speaker was Dr. Gary Smalley, who was a part of the Secrets project. He always shares such amazing insights, and this time was no exception.

Dr. Smalley creatively revealed how meditating on God’s Word will impact our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. This wasn’t the first time I heard him talk about meditating on Scripture. When I met with Dr. Smalley to video tape the interviews for Secrets, he shared with me how he is continually memorizing Scripture verses and strives to meditate on them throughout the day. He has chosen key passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-8, Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 4:4-8, and James 1. He said he has memorized around 120 passages.

What does it mean to “meditate”? Well, if you know how to worry, then you know how to meditate. Meditating on something is simply going over it in your thoughts on a consistent basis. When we worry, we are simply mentally rehearsing our concerns…there is not enough money in the bank, my pay check won’t cover all the expenses this week, what if the insurance doesn’t cover that last doctor’s appointment… Well, I’m sure you get the idea. We’ve all done our share of worrying. Quite honestly, worry is allowing our concerns to consume our thoughts.

If you look up “meditate” in your Bible’s concordance, you will find several Scriptures that encourage us to meditate on God’s law, precepts, unfailing love, wonders, works, and promises. Dr. Smalley’s challenge is to memorize God’s truth and allow it to saturate our thoughts.

When I think of the difference this has made in my own life, I’m amazed. Worry wears me out emotionally. It produces frustration, stress, discouragement, and fear—and leads me to be self-absorbed. Those attitudes directly affect my behavior and negatively impact every relationship in my life. But meditating on God’s Word, unfailing love, and promises brings light and life, faith and hope, encouragement and peace. I’ve discovered that my attitudes and actions are a direct reflection of the meditation of my heart.

Dr. Smalley gave me a copy of his book, Change Your Hear Change Your Life. When he signed the book, he also wrote “Psalm 1.” May these verses encourage us!

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
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 1:2-3

Thursday, March 19, 2009

God's Grace

As I write this blog, my husband is driving home from Alabama where he officiated the funeral services for Andrea Myers and her 18-month-old daughter, Corrine. He has been gone since Saturday morning and has witnessed overwhelming grief and sorrow over the past four days. Mike stayed with the Myers to attend the funerals for the other ten victims and is now driving back to Wichita with Chuck and Matt…May God’s grace get them safely home…

Early last Saturday, Chuck Myers, Andrea’s father-in-law who attends our church, called and asked Mike if there was any way he could come to Alabama and conduct Andrea and Corrine’s funeral service (which was scheduled for the next day at 3:00 pm). Our hearts have been broken for this family, so the answer was an easy one. Originally, we thought Mike would fly. But due to spring break, there were no empty seats on any planes headed south. So he drove 13 hours Saturday and three more Sunday morning. Mike met with the families, checked into a hotel, and had to quickly handwrite notes for a very challenging funeral. But God’s grace was more than enough…

In the midst of making arrangements to go to Alabama, Mike asked me to speak for our services here at Maranatha. He said, “Kerry, I know this is extremely short notice and this is a difficult weekend to share. But I want this congregation to have their pastors present with them as well. And the only way we can be in both places is for me to go and you to stay here and share in our services.” I’ve never shared at services like we had this past weekend, but God’s grace was more than enough…

Mike has shared many ways God’s grace has been so evident in Alabama. Just last night on the way home, the hotel clerk asked them where they had been. When she learned their story, she wept and gave them their hotel rooms for the evening free of charge…God’s grace seen in a total stranger…

I just got off the phone with my friend, Carolyn (Josh Myer’s mom, Andrea’s mother-in-law, and baby Corrine’s grandma). She wept as she shared the many miracles she has witnessed this past week. Baby Ella made it through the surgery so well and has been in such good spirits. Four-year-old Isaak awakes every morning to tell them of his dreams of Jesus. One night he dreamt of Jesus giving him something to eat and to drink. And this morning he told his daddy and grandma that he saw Jesus with his mommy as he slept last night. How amazing…God’s grace is proving to be more than enough…

Chuck and Josh (Andrea’s father and husband) have asked if they can share in our church service Sunday morning. They are anxious to tell the stories of God’s amazing grace in the midst of the deepest sorrow anyone could face. Please continue to keep this precious family in your prayers. We can pray confidently for God’s grace to be more than enough for every moment this family faces without Andrea and Corrine…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tragedy Has a Way of Putting Everything into Perspective

I had just arrived home from a trip to Springfield, Missouri, late Tuesday afternoon when my husband called to tell me that Chuck and Carolyn Myers’ daughter-in-law and granddaughter had been murdered in Samson, Alabama. The Myers are friends who have attended our church since 1997. In 2003, my husband performed the wedding ceremony for their oldest son Josh and his wife Andrea. And we participated in the dedication ceremony for their first two children—Corrine was dedicated just before this young family moved to Alabama a little over a year ago.

What immense sorrow Chuck and Carolyn must feel—losing a daughter-in-law and grandbaby in a completely senseless act of violence! Knowing their son, a deputy sheriff who puts his life on the line to protect others every day, has just lost half of his family in a matter of seconds at the hands of a crazed gunman. How do they even begin to process the emotion of such a loss?

I can’t imagine all Chuck and Carolyn are feeling and experiencing today. And I don’t want to make inaccurate speculations, but I feel that I know them well enough to know a few things. I’m quite sure they are so thankful for every moment they spent with Andrea and Corrine. I’m sure they don’t regret anything they sacrificed to in order to show them love. I know that the most important thing to them right now is to be with Josh and his other two children—to surround those precious loved ones with as much support as it takes to walk through the sorrow of the upcoming days.

We have walked through times of loss and grief with the Myers in the past year and I have watched them rest completely in the arms of God. Their steady faith has been an inspiration to me. They know that God alone is their Source and that only His grace is sufficient for times like these.

They are more aware than ever what is really important—knowing and loving God and loving and serving those He has given to us. Everything else is just “stuff.” Our jobs, our possessions, our positions, our plans…nothing really matters in times like these except God and those we love.

Tragedy has a way of putting everything into perspective, and it can teach us some extremely important lessons. Please don’t allow Andrea and Corrine’s deaths to simply go unnoticed. We can honor their precious (and much too brief) lives by sincerely asking ourselves:

  • Am I living with the awareness that life is extremely fragile?
  • Am I viewing every moment as a precious gift from God?
  • Am I making the most of every moment given to me?
  • Am I striving to know and love God, so when difficulties come into my life I will be able to rest securely in Him?
  • Do the people in my life know how much I love them? How can I show them?
  • Are my best efforts and energies given to the most important things in life, or am I consumed with temporal, less important things? What priorities should I adjust?
  • How can I live with no regrets?

Jesus said it this way, “The most important is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart. The second is this: Love others as yourself.” Please don’t miss the most important things in life!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Megabyte for Thought

Today I was talking to some coworkers about how quickly technology has advanced in the last few decades. The National Women’s Department got its first computer in 1990 and the entire department had to share the one machine. (Can you imagine?) And if you consider the last 150 years, the changes are almost staggering. From the time of creation to just a few hundred years ago, people traveled by foot, animal, or boat—not automobile or aircraft crossing oceans. Most people ate what was grown in their area—not the international fare we are accustomed to today. Even books were costly and in some places rare. And communication was always face-to-face or carried by hand from one person to another—not instantaneous media and personal computers.

For example, a few Saturdays ago I was sitting in my home office looking at Facebook when a message was posted from my friend JoVonda who is a missionary living in Greystone, Ireland. As I was reading her post, another friend, Pam (a missionary living in Cairo, Egypt) sent me an instant message and we began to chat. A few minutes into my chat with Pam, my son who is Argentina Skyped me. (Of course I had to let Pam go, since I’m not talented enough to use Facebook chat and Skype at the same time. I think you have to be younger than 30 to be able to multitask like that.)

Just think about that . . . Sitting in my pajamas in Wichita, Kansas on a laid back Saturday morning, I was able to communicate with friends and family on three different continents within just a few minutes. That is really incredible! Just a few decades ago it would have taken months to get letters to those places, and the privilege of a real conversation would have cost more than we’d be able to spend. Now, for the cost of internet, computer, and a Web cam, I can actually see my son in Argentina and talk with him virtually “face-to-face.” We live in such an amazing time in history!

I want to be careful to never take for granted (or be overwhelmed/distracted by) the technology advances and opportunities at my fingertips. Instead I want to be thankful for the significant time in which we live, unlike any other period in history. We weren’t born into the “information age” by happenstance—it’s by God’s design. We’ve been placed in this crucial time for a reason, and each of us has a purpose. This challenges me to use technology to advance God’s kingdom—to take every opportunity I have to be an agent of God’s grace and love in this world.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, NIV).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Just a Coincidence!

“He delights in every detail of your life!” (Psalms 37:23, NLT).

Ever have one of those amazing moments when you just know that God put all of the details together? We recently had one of those moments at our house.

Our youngest son Blake is in Argentina for five months with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). He is loving it and is being challenged on a daily basis. It’s been great fun hearing how God is speaking to him during this time in his life. One of the most amazing ways was through the daily devotional book he took with him—Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment.

We were on Skype the other day, and he told me to get my copy of the devotional and read June 7th’s title. (June 7th is the day he is coming home to Wichita.) He said, “Mom, you have to read the title and the last paragraph!” (BTW--the picture is of Blake on Skype. He is at a mall with other YWAMers :)

Here’s the title—“God Will Get You Home.” And the last paragraph says, “Let me encourage you…God never said that the journey would be easy, but he did say the arrival would be worthwhile.” Wow!

Now I know that the “home” Lucado is referring to is our ultimate home in heaven. But what an amazing “coincidence” that this title just happens to be the date Blake is coming home to Wichita. As a mother, I’m so thankful for God’s incredible assurance that He is with Blake in every situation, and He will get him home.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Am I Pursuing?

God's Word always challenges me! Two days ago, I was reading Proverbs 21 and was encouraged to consider my pursuits. Verse 21 says, "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." A lot of insight is packed into those eleven words.

God’s wisdom can feel so contrary to our way of thinking…we may think that if we pursue life, prosperity and honor, that is what we will find—life, prosperity and honor. But God says that if we pursue righteousness and love, we will find those blessings.

And I wonder what we find if we only pursue life, prosperity and honor?

Hmmm . . . just something to think about.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How’s Your Service?

I remember how as a young bride I used to go over-and-above for Mike. I would make his favorite meals, sacrifice to buy him just the right thing, listen to him talk (with starry fascination in my eyes), and plan special “date nights” for the two of us. I worked really hard to show him he’s the most important person in my life!

Now 25 years later, if I’m not careful I can slip into an attitude of complacency. I may take him for granted and pass up opportunities to show my love for him. I might not even realize that I’m in a rut until something pricks my heart—something like Jesus’ words in John 15, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” I ask myself when was the last time I laid down something for Mike—my preferences, my time, my pride....?

My friend shared with me a fun quiz titled, “How’s Your Service?” It’s a great way for a wife to evaluate how well she is giving self-sacrificing love to her husband. Take a minute to do this quiz, and let God speak to your heart like He has to mine...

Click here to download pdf.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crawling into Bed

Last night as Mike and I crawled into bed, I thought about how thankful I am for those precious moments together before we drift off to sleep. We’ve made a commitment to go to bed at the same time, whether it is 10:00 pm or midnight, we get into bed together every night. It helps us to feel connected and grounded.

Mike and I try to eat as many meals together as possible and we try to connect by phone or e-mail throughout the day. But many days, like today, our day is full of work and other obligations. Simply knowing that at the end of the day we will have some precious moments alone together, gives me something to look forward to all day long!! Even when we are traveling and have to sleep in separate beds, we crawl into bed, get on our cell phones and talk until we are almost asleep.

In all the years we’ve been married, I can only think of a few times when one of us went to bed ahead of the other and was asleep when the other one came to bed. (In most of those instances the one in bed early was sick.) This is such simple, but important commitment to us. I know all couples can’t make this same type of arrangement. But it is so important to find a time to connect each and every day. One friend and her husband sit on their porch swing for 30 minutes every night after dinner while their kids clean the kitchen.

Don’t let today go by without connecting with your spouse! It is one of the most important things you will do all day long!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PureLife Ministries

As a pastor’s wife I regularly encounter hurting women whose husbands are engaged in sexual sin. It is truly one of the most painful experiences a woman can face!

A couple of years ago I had the awesome privilege of meeting Kathy Gallagher. She is a woman who completely understands the pain sexual sin. I'm sure that dropping an atomic bomb in the middle of the living room would have caused less devastation than the words her husband shared with her—“I’ve been addicted to pornography and visiting prostitutes for awhile now.”

Steve and Kathy Gallagher could have ended-up like many couples today—angry, hurt, and divorced. But they pushed through the fight of their life and are now on the other side. Today they are the leaders of PureLife Ministries, giving hope and healing to men and women damaged by sexual sin.

I love this ministry, because it is solidly built on a Scriptural foundation with Jesus Christ being the source of healing. And PureLife Ministries gives special care to the wife in the wake of her husband’s sexual sin. The counseling staff is incredible because they have all been there...

This is a great place to refer friends and family members who don’t know what to do. Encouraging articles, blogs, Q & A, phone counseling, resources, and a residential program are just some of what you will find on their Web site: http://www.purelifeministries.org/restoring-marriages. Take a minute to check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Are You Thirsty?

Recently, God has been teaching me a lot about spiritual thirst. He so often speaks the same message to me in a variety of ways. (I think I’m a bit of a slow learner.)
  • For several weeks I felt I should read Isaiah 55 every day. The first words of this awesome chapter are “Come, all you who are thirsty. Come to the water and drink.”
  • Then, as a part of my job, I was asked to review Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Barton eloquently describes how we should minister from that place where we meet with God and the difference when we minister from a place of depletion or spiritual thirst.
  • About three weeks ago I began teaching Max Lucado’s book, Come Thirsty to my adult class at church. The title says it all!
  • He has even been using a song entitled, The More I Seek You. The lines resounding in my heart are, “I just want to sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in Your hand, lean back against You and breathe, feel Your heart beat…”

This past weekend I spoke at a leadership event in Little Rock, Arkansas. I planned to share many of the concepts I felt the Lord had impressed on my heart from Isaiah 55 and the books I had read. My message for Friday night was entitled, Are You Thirsty? I was hoping the worship leader would be able to lead the song, The More I Seek You. Before the service I asked him if he knew the song and he told me he didn’t. No biggy…I thought, I can just tell them about the song and recite the lyrics. (Believe me, they wouldn’t want me to sing them!)

Angelia Carpenter, the director of the event, had asked several girls from the Arkansas Teen Challenge to sing before I spoke. She told me that they would sing two songs and then Lisa Ramsey would introduce me. They arrived late—just before they were scheduled to sing. But just as planned, they sang two songs and Lisa went to the platform to introduce me. When Lisa got to the platform, one of the girls whispered in her ear. Lisa simply nodded and sat down because the girls felt they should sing one more song. You guessed it—they sang, The More I Seek You.

All I could think was, “Wow, God, You are AMAZING! You must really want to quench our spiritual thirst tonight!”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Double-Date Ideas

Having fun together is an important component of a healthy marriage. But sometimes Mike and I face seasons of life when it’s really hard to connect with other couples in a deeply satisfying way. Especially during times of transition, when our responsibilities increase, or when our family’s needs are more demanding...

My friend likens this to “backwashing.” She says that a couple needs a regular inflow of new perspective and interaction from people outside the two of them. Otherwise, their own relationship can get stale and unfulfilling. (While this may be a funny way to look at it, I think it’s true!)

The symptoms of “backwashing” include: taking each other for granted, bickering over little things, being stuck in a rut of the same activities, reluctance to be spontaneous, critical thoughts and attitudes...you get the picture.

In those times, I’ve discovered the importance of planning ahead for time with other couples. Here are a few of my favorite double-date ideas:
  • Get dessert and take a walk in a park.
  • Play miniature golf.
  • Have a bonfire.
  • Share dessert after the evening church service.
  • Go to a concert or symphony.
  • Visit a local attraction or museum.
  • Around the holidays, gather for a potluck where each couple brings a dish to represent their unique heritage.
  • Attend a local fair or carnival together.
  • Make homemade pizzas together.
  • Attend a theatrical performance.
  • Go out for breakfast on a Saturday morning.
  • Choose a book to read, and regularly meet to discuss what you’re learning.
  • Engage in a common hobby—biking, hiking,
  • Visit scenic areas and take photos.
  • Host a theme-related dinner where each couple brings a dish (Mexican, luau, Asian, etc.).
  • Plan a game night.
  • Enjoy an afternoon picnic.
The possibilities are endless!! And I’m always amazed at the meaningful conversations that develop as we do an activity we enjoy. I always feel that our marriage is refreshed after spending quality time with dear friends. The benefits are well worth the time and effort put into planning!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Love Boat

Mike and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on a Caribbean cruise! My boss was given 20 cabins to fill on the KLOVE cruise. She offered one to us, and it was the perfect way to celebrate. I know—what an amazing gift!

The morning before our ship set sail, I was enjoying some quiet time with my Bible. Before I read I generally ask the Lord to speak something specific to my heart—something I can think about and meditate on throughout the day. This day was no different. I had taken a copy of the New Living Translation with me, and my daily reading was taking me through Deuteronomy 5. Verse 10 stood out like it was written in neon letters, “I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands.”

Throughout the entire cruise, that verse continued to resound in my heart and I felt the Lord lavishing His love on Mike and me. His love was experienced in so many sweet moments like basking in the sun on the deck, gazing at the vast ocean, exploring a Caribbean island, eating wonderful food, meeting interesting people, and enjoying “together time” alone in our cabin.

But probably the sweetest moment for me, was on the last day of the cruise. The sky was an indescribable blue, the breeze was warm, and the smell of the ocean air was a so fresh. I could almost feel a tangible presence of God. We were standing against a railing on the open deck with (literally) 1,000 other people listening to Mandisa sing. She sang “God Is Speaking” from her True Beauty album.

Listen to some of the lyrics, “Who knows how He’ll get a hold of us, Get our attention to prove He is enough, He’ll do and He’ll use whatever He wants to, To tell us, I love you…” The last line of the song is, “God is speaking, ‘I love you’.” Standing there after the song, with Mike’s arms wrapped around me, tears were streaming down my cheeks. Mike whispered in my ear, “Everything okay?” I couldn’t even tell him how perfectly loved I felt at that moment, not only by him, but by God.

God is speaking, “I love you!”