Is this THE END or A NEW BEGINNING?




Whether I am reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to someone share -- I absolutely love a great story. I love watching the plot develop and I especially love the possibilities surrounding each new beginning.

I hate endings. Closing the page of a book I've loved, the screen fading to black and the credits rolling after I've enjoyed a good movie, and a chapter in my life coming to a conclusion that has been life changing.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My daughter and I are in the process of turning the page of an incredible chapter. The details are too many to describe. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Tiger's Edition, affectionately known as Eddy, our 12 year old, thoroughbred. Today, both Chelsea and Eddy begin a new chapter.

In the spring of 2006, Eddy was adopted by us through New Vocations -- a race horse adoption group located in Ohio. He came to us very green with little experience or training. After over 3 years of intentional and dedicated loving care, determination, and amazing resolve... Eddy and Chelsea have grown in strength, confidence, and beauty. You can see this in them... the possibilities hidden inside of them are emerging. No doubt, they are different as a result of this chapter of their lives.

My Chelsea is an amazing young woman -- I am honored to be her mom and even more grateful to be her friend.

I am also trusting God and remembering these words found in a little book in the Old Testament

Look... & watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
Habakkuk 1:5

Today, I'm just wondering what's next...

Hungry for More of God?

Why is it so hard for us to create space in our life to be with God? Maybe it is because we not sure what to do with the time we've set aside or space we've created. Maybe it is because we choose to run around allowing the urgency of our to-do list to consume every minute of our day. Maybe it is because our souls and minds have become so distracted.

Unfortunately, all of these can be true of my life. Yet, when I have created space and taken the opportunity to sit down and be with God -- I realize he is always waiting for me and he brings most everything to the table.

All I need is waiting for me... the question is will I choose to sit down and be with God. Will you?



Mindy Caliguire will be with us at Grace on Saturday, October 3rd to walk us through time with God as we do some soul searching. You'll walk away from this morning having been with God and be able to take what we've practiced and experienced and begin to integrate it into your everyday, ordinary life. To register, visit www.gracecc.org/women.

The Attentive Life... in a rush?


I've been reading The Attentive Life -- it's our September Bagels & Books selection that I am responsible for facilitating the discussion. It's ironic that I've had to crunch in a chapter here and there - among all the other things in my life. Feeling pressure to finish the book yet knowing that I can't be attentive in a rush.


There is much to be considered, learned, and mostly savored in this book. Today, I am thinking of two things....


1 What does it mean for me to be still and still moving?


2 To see tears as a gift. So when tears come, instead of avoiding them I am trying to pay attention, to pause and ask: What makes these tears come?



Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

The author (Leighton Ford) encourages us to sit with this verse. To repeat it over and over, leaving off a word or phrase each time. Spending a minute or two on each phrase. Write down impressions and thoughts that come to your mind and heart.


Be still and know that I am God.


Be still and know that I am...


Be still and know...


Be still...


Be...


May our hearts be penetrated by these words today. As we slow down and pay attention God can break through the many layers of distraction and self-protection... so that we can hear his word and be poised to listen.



The Attentive Life -- Interview with the author!

Check out this short interview with author of The Attentive Life, Leighton Ford

Beyond My View

God's seems to be stretching my frame of reference these days. Okay, maybe he does everyday, the only difference is some days I actually notice.

You've got to check out Get Compelled, the blog created by our outreach team here at Grace. Inside this blog, you'll read about amazing stories of ordinary people paying attention to God moving in and through them. Plus, you'll find a whole new vantage point to view your corner of the world and beyond!

Their latest post shows one of our groups from Access (the college ministry at Grace) who decided to be called the “In Action” group. Every week they make breakfast and serve it to the Hispanic guys standing on the corner looking for work in downtown Indianapolis. If you look closely at the video below, you can actually see a couple guys getting picked up for work in a mini-van. It is incredible to see the relationships build as the team shows up every week. There is nothing quite like sharing a meal together!



Check out their blog -- not just an observer -- be brave and ask yourself --

What is God prompting me to notice and how can I respond?

Summer Time Intentionality




I hope your making time for those you love the most this summer. Often I walk into summer with big dreams of how I will spend my time and who I am going to be with... then way too often it seems August is upon us and I've barely scratched the surface of my big dreams. How about you?

What were you most hoping for this summer?

What are you doing to reach toward those hopes?


For me, I began the summer asking myself what I most hoped for this summer. I knew I wanted to spend time with my family and friends this summer. You see, my parents are growing older and my kids are fast approaching adulthood... so I am feeling a bit of urgency to make the most of my days. I walked into the summer knowing I needed a plan that began with being less hurried. Almost everyday, I must be diligent in what I say YES to and what I am say NO to.

Truthfully, it's already been a challenge to be wise in how I spend my time. My parents live 2 hours east and my oldest son is living 4 hours west, not to mention all the things we are committed to here at home. I am constantly asking:

Is this what I want or need to spend my time doing?
How is this "thing" going to invest in the lives of those I love the most?
If I choose not to do this or that, will I look back and regret it one day?

Psalm 90:12 says this...
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of
wisdom.

My prayer is that we will see our days as an amazing opportunity to be with God and be with others in ways that truly make a difference.
So What About You?
Name one thing you are hoping for this summer and one specific thing you are doing to make this hope a reality. Post your comments below!

Open to God through His Word


I don't know about you, but I have a great need and desire to hear from God. I am thankful God is a God of communication and words. Deep inside us, he has planted the desire to know him. And in respone to our need for God, he has chosen to speak to us through the words and images we find in the Bible and through the promptings of his spirit.
Fortunately, as we read and reflect on Scripture, we see God speaking so that we may gain insight into who he is, who we are, and why we are here.


Scripture is a primary way that the Holy Spirit opens us up to the God who is beyond us. In the Bible God reveals to us both our sin and our belovedness. Our desires for nourishment, strength, comfort, and joy are all addressed in Scripture. Reading God's word, listening to Scripture puts us in a place to attend to the God who speaks. God is still speaking today and guiding us personally and intimately through the word. Regularly being with God in scripture is a way we open ourselves to truths and guidance outside us. excerpt adapted from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


How do I know what God has to say? How does Scripture intersect with my life?


These are great questions. So let's take a practical look at connecting with God through scripture.


Let's begin by reading and responding to a few specific scriptures which reflect the heart behind our need to get in God's word.



Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another--showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. 2 Timothy 3:16 The Message

Let the word of Christ--the Message--have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Colossians 3:16 The Message

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 New International Version


Think about it. Based on these verses, why would you spend your time reading scripture?

Engaging with God through Scripture


Here are a few suggestions for engaging with God through scripture. Try and different method each day for the next week. I am confident you'll find God speaking to you!


The Artist Method

Read a passage of scripture, considering these three questions as you read.


  1. What speaks to my heart? Draw a heart beside the word that speaks to your heart.
  2. What new thought or idea comes to me? Draw a light bulb beside the new thought or idea.
  3. What does scripture move me to do? Draw a hand beside the action you want to take.
  4. Now, consider how you can apply one of your insights today and take action.

The Detective Method
Read a short narrative passage of scripture from one of the Gospels. Let the story take shape in your mind's eye.


  1. Imagine the scene.
  2. Observe the facts. Ask who, when, where, what questions.
  3. Once you have the facts, interpret the facts. Ask they why and wherefore questions. What meaning did the actions have for the characters? What meaning do the actions have for you?
  4. Then apply your study to your own life. Ask how will this change my life? What do you take away from the story?

The Treasure-seeker Method

When reading scripture consider the following application questions:


  1. Is there an example here for me to follow?
  2. Is there a promise to claim or a command to obey?
  3. Is there a prayer for me to pray?
  4. Is there a sin to be confessed?
  5. Is there a question God is asking me?

Jesus' Apprentice Method

Choose a passage from one of the Gospels and study to discover all you can about Jesus. Ask yourself the following questions:


  1. What seems important to Jesus?
  2. What sort of questions does he ask people?
  3. What sort of questions do people ask him?
  4. What is Jesus inviting me to be and do?

Source: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

We'd love to hear from you. In what ways did you experience God speaking to you? Which method did you like best and why? What other ways have you found that help you engage with God in scripture?



Marked By His Words



I have a fond attachment to my Bible. I doubt anyone would want it. It's the one with the scuffed blue cover, torn inside pockets, sections nearly falling out, varied colors of highlighting and personal notes strewn throughout the pages. I purchased this Bible back in the early 80s while I was in high school. It’s pretty basic. It is a NIV (New International Version) with a mini concordance in the back.

One of the reasons this is my favorite Bible is because in these pages I see evidence of God coming alive in me. If you were to take a look, you’d find notes of my journey with God. You’d find notations of the God working in my life, teaching me more about who He is and who I am.

As I flip through these pages again, I notice the bits and pieces of a leaf found at the base of an old oak tree some 25 years ago. These dried fragments mark a moment in time which represents much of my journey with God.

My mind wanders back to a picnic table in Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana. I was a sophomore at Anderson University with so much of my life ahead of me. As I sat on the top of that table, meandering through the pages of my Bible I stumbled upon Psalm 46:10-11.

Is that it? Is that it.

Permanently marked with light blue highlighter it carries me to that day and to that moment where I read these words: BE STILL and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

So often I’ve returned to this place in my mind --when I'm not quite sure, when I'm lookng ahead, and when I'm considering the options.

I am thankful for finding those words. I am thankful I took the time to be with God on that very day. It seems He’s been reminding me of that simple truth my whole life.

Choosing a Bible


Bible 101—some helps for choosing a Bible.


Reading the Bible – sounds simple enough! Warning – there are dozens to choose from!


  1. Check them out. Get familiar with a few different translations of Scripture. You can easily do this online at http://www.biblegateway.com/ Check out the different translations by looking up Psalm 23. Read them and see which style you most perfer.

  2. Translations – New Living Translation (NLT) is a current, accurate, easily read translation. In the end choose one you will read! Other good options include: New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Keep in mind all texts are translated either word for word or phrase by phrase.

  3. A word on using The Message ®. We’d suggest using this version of the Bible as a compliment to any translation. Just keep in mind The Message ® is not a translation but rather a paraphrase of scripture based on the author’s perspective, personal insight, and is geared toward making the story applicable to the time.

  4. Study Helps – May or may not include: time lines, maps, concordance, cross reference, dictionaries, book descriptions, about the book author, literary descriptions, date and history, major theological themes, book outlines, verse by verse notes, etc.
    Choosing YOUR Bible: The best way to make your selection is to go to a Christian book store and look through a few to find one you like. Ask a few friends or others about what's worked for them.


Most importantly, choose one you'll read and read it!

The Father's Love Letter to You




This is God's love letter to you.

watch read listen







Father to the Fatherless




But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless…. You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. Psalm 10:14, 17-18



Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing;... Psalms 68:4-6a




Go to God

Father God,
You are my heavenly Father, my true Father…that has been one of the huge things I have come to realize over these past five years. You are so great and powerful, yet You are a Father to Your children, defender of the widow, setting the lonely in families, and leading prisoners with song. You are so righteous, great, and almighty—no one and nothing can stand against You, but to Your children, You are caring, tender, and loving. I really didn’t have an earthly dad…he was too messed up to be a parent, but You are all the Father I ever need. You have been so very gracious and merciful to me. Thank You for how You have blessed me, taken me for You own, and gave me a life and relationship with You that is so much more than anything this world could offer.



adapted from Jan Merkel's prayer journal



Because I am Your child, I will …

Enough

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward worth living for
And still more awesome than I know...
listen to Chris Tomlin's Enough

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God. Psalm 68:34-35

The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.Psalm 89:5-8

Go to God

Father God,
There is no doubt in my mind that You are the ultimate, supreme, living, only true God. There is no one above You. I cannot begin to comprehend all of You. Because I cannot fully understand all that You are, sometimes it is hard for me to fully understand all that I am in You.


Please continue to teach me how to think, how live, and how to love as a child of Yours.

adapted from Jan Merkel's prayer journal 2008

Who are You? Who am I? God, would you remind me of what is true?

God, because You are You -- I can choose to believe that You are more than ENOUGH for...

Good Shepherd

As you read the Bible you’ll find a variety of descriptions and metaphors for God.

One of the metaphors you’ll notice is that of “shepherd.” Most of us are familiar with Psalm 23 which begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want….”

We’d love to invite you to think about God as your shepherd. Although it’s a stretch to imagine the full significance of this metaphor (since we suburbanites have little reference for sheep and shepherding) there is still much to be discovered about Who God is and how he relates to His sheep (oh I mean people).

There are two passages of scriptures we’d love to encourage you to read. Psalm 23 and John 10:1-18. As you read these two passages, what are you discovering about Who God is and how He thinks about you?

Meditate on this Verse

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…

John 10:14

Go to God

Father God,
I am SO thankful that You are my Shepherd…leading and guiding me. You are all knowing and Your wisdom I cannot fathom so help me to hear Your voice at all times and know Your direction. Help me to not get impatient when You guide me to rest, and to trust that You are leading me to green pastures where I can be fed and nourished and my soul can be restored. Just as a shepherd is constantly on guard protecting his flock, help me to have a deep understanding that you are always on watch concerning all that is going on in my life…nothing goes unnoticed by You. Give me ears and a heart that only hears You. Let me rest in the confidence that You will not let me go astray.

Today, I will be confident that You will. . .

adapted from Jan Merkel's prayer journal 2008

We’d love to create a chorus of prayer as we finish the phrase above. Would you post some of our expressions of prayer to God?

Just click on the comments below and type in your prayer. (Not sure how to get started, directions can be found on the righthand side of the page toward the top under ADDING TO THE BLOG)

The Times Maybe Uncertain YET....

As the new year begins, we find many are facing economic crisis and if not crisis at least concern. It seems life as we know it is changing all around us. These are uncertain times. We don't know what will come to pass in the days and months ahead. YET... {I love that word}

YET adverb
inspite of everything
used to stress that it remains possible that something will happen or that you are still determined to do something despite present difficulties



{Here's what I know} God never changes. He is dependable, consistent, immovable, reliable, steadfast... He is CERTAIN.


Now faith is being sure of what we
hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1




I don't know where you are on your journey with God, but I know God longs for you to know Him. Over the next several weeks, we are going to be blogging about the many attributes of God. We hope this is a great way to help in your pursuit of God.

We believe that as we focus our eyes on God and who He is, we'll be encouraged to live a life marked by faith and action.

I've asked Jan Merkel, our brand new Ministry Assistant to the Women of Grace, to help us develop our prayer life by focusing our attention by praying through the various attributes of God.

Keep checking back, we hope to post a couple times each week.

Looking forward to this leg of our journey together.

Corinne

Getting the Picture One Frame at a Time

I hesitate when I begin talking about the different attributes of God. Why? Because every time I begin to look at one, I find that I have to look at another, and another, and another. You just can't pick and choose. You can't cut and paste those things you'll like and disregard those things you don't understand or aren't sure you like.


Think in terms of photography.


I have a few photographs of our visit to the Grand Canyon on January 1st, 2006. These pictures just don't do it justice. Let's admit it right now... a snapshot doesn't ever tell the full story. But, it does help us capture some of the essence and attributes of a place, person, or experience.


Together we are going to build a picture of God, one frame at a time as we consider attribute, after attribute, after attribute.

So, let's begin.

Rehearsing the attributes of God is a great way to allow us to be more aware of God's constant presence in our lives. As we pray and meditate on God, we will be reminded of Who we are in conversation with and we will find encouragement for our heart and mind as we come before Him.


Look at Revelation 21 verses 5-7. In these verses, we see a glimpse of the story of God's plan.

"It is finished! I am the Alpha and Omega--the beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children."


God is worthy of our praise and I believe when we give Him praise and honor something amazing and beyond this world happens.

God is worthy of our praise and I believe when we give Him praise and honor something amazing and beyond this realm happens.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty-- the one who always was, who is, and who is to come." Revelation 4:8


What verses do you tend to go to when you think of offering God "honor and praise"?

Alpha and Omega

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." Revelation 21:6

Father God,
You've always existed and You always will...I praise You because You are eternal and everlasting; Your presence always there. Today, I felt a deep sense that You were present with me when I was a child playing alone even though I was not aware of You at the time. It seems strange to have this early childhood memory, but what comfort and security this gives me because I know that even when it doesn't seem or feel like it, You are there. You are in all my moments...even when I am feeling alone and unsure like I do today.

Today, I will remember Your constant presence when . . .
Sometimes, I just pray my words in my head and other times when I am all alone at home I pray my words out loud. Other times I find it helpful to journal or write my prayers down. I'd encourage you to to journal along with me. What I find is when I write my prayers they seem to permeate my thinking throughout the day.

We'd love to hear your prayers. Would you be willing to share your prayers by posting them -- together we can enrich our understanding and encourage our longing for God. Plus, God loves to hear our prayers and praises!

I've given you my words... now it's your turn. Either begin by writing (a.k.a. praying) my words and then let your words flow from there... or read my words and then begin your prayer.

Enjoy your time with God.

Jan Merkel