Beauty Not Often Seen

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in The Blog | 0 comments

I urge you to take a couple minutes from your busy day to read this guest post by Jonathan Foster. He shares from the depths of his heart about how God shows us beauty through our times of pain and loss. It will take your breath away…it did mine. Be sure to check out his book Where Was God on the Worst Day of My Life and blog

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Beauty Not Often Seen (Death and Life)

Almost a year has past since our daughter, Quincy, has been able to join us on a Sunday morning at Mission Church. This past New Years Day death conspired with an icy road, and an oncoming truck to usher her into heaven. Every day I miss her, but Sundays the echoes seem to be the loudest. Quincy was as involved and interested in our church as much as a college kid could be. She served in the nursery, helped us setup and teardown, greeted people, ran the computer, and sang. In fact, the last time she was at Mission Church she led music with her family on Christmas Eve. She found importance in her faith community of which I’m grateful. Additionally she did not appear to resent the work of the faith community.  As her father and pastor, I am grateful for this as well. Being the pastor’s child can introduce stress. But, Quincy seldom complained. She genuinely appeared to be proud of the family work.
These thoughts and more were in my heart recently, when at the conclusion of one our gatherings I invited everyone to participate in an exercise. Before the service, we had written with a dry erase marker, dozens of different sins, issues, and attitudes upon the auditorium windows. After communion, we pulled the curtains and challenged everyone to locate a “sin” they identified with and then erase. The exercise symbolized how God erases and our sins. I went first and then sat in the back and observed. It was moving. Beauty, like fragrance, seemed to ventilate the room. As I watched, I began to shake. Then weep. What was the reason I wept? I suppose it may have been nothing more than a release. Like a valve relieving pressure, from time to time the knob gets turned and emotions escape. This isn’t bad. I am not ashamed to weep.  It’s a part of the grieving journey. But, I guess there were other things at play as well. True, Quincy’s absence even at that moment was breaking my heart but there was also a vast amount of love holding my heart. As the people leaned into the exercise, it appeared the love of Christ was holding all of us in that room, so many who were hurting just like me about Quincy, and others struggling deeply with their own issues. Watching it all, I longed for the moment to last in time.
Abraham Heschel, in his book The Sabbath, says, “All man’s endeavors are an expenditure of time to gain power in space.” The irony, of course, is the power we gain in the world of space is abruptly terminated when our time is over. It follows then; our endeavors should be spent on what will last in and beyond time. How might we find these endeavors? Surprisingly, (why am I still surprised by this) not by the neon-signed buzzing of the world’s obvious, but by a more simple and indirect light. Take my recent experience, for example, when I found myself with my young, startup church, in a glorified warehouse, in an out of the way location. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, but in volitional unity, life-giving worship, the breaking of the everlasting Word, and the celebration of unforced sacrifice I found the power of simplicity. To borrow Heschel’s language, each of the aforementioned are a type of endeavor. But, then again, “endeavor” is much too benign of a word for things so laden with power. For as the splitting of a single atom points toward atomic energy, so these endeavors point toward eternal energy. Maybe Heschel is only partially correct. Yes, all man’s endeavors concern themselves with power, but in the examples I found this morning, the endeavors concerned themselves not with power gained, but power deferred. Maybe wherever the deferment of power lives, so exists the essence of power.  I think it was the beauty of “power deferment” that made such an impression on me. It surprised me (again, why am I still surprised) to consider, that although the sins we confess are actually sick and hideous; the act of confessing is undeniably healthy and beautiful.
Health and beauty are subject matters we talk a lot about in our world.  We are, I believe, confused about their value, but we are not confused about the power they hold over us. Which is why we package them in the ephemeral skin of youth, money or position. And we constantly parade them about in our magazines, marketing, and movies. Yet, our biggest films, costing a quarter of a billion dollars to produce, cannot match the art I witnessed in the 87-year old husband and wife hobbling across the room searching for sins to erase. (Later, she would say it was hard to narrow it down to one!) The beauty spread out on the covers of our most famous magazines pale in comparison to the grace of a single mom I observed humbly and defiantly (yes, these are potentially synonymous) approaching the table of bread and wine.
These are endeavors that construct the beautiful.
These are the atomic building blocks of the unseen.
This is the DNA of heaven.
Which brings me back to thinking about my daughter. In a few days, we are leaving for Haiti… one of her absolute favorite places within this earthly dimension. But, I won’t find her physically there. I won’t find her there any more than I’ll find her in her bedroom, or on the soccer field, or in the mountains. She now participates completely in the unseen…. the beautiful… the timeless. But, we who hope in Jesus, the Christ… we, who expend our time deferring power in this space have one foot in the unseen as well. (Soon, it will be both.)
It’s true, if the death and resurrection of our Lord did not happen then, we should receive pity. But we know it happened. Look around; there is too much beauty! The death is a cold, constricting bitterness. But, the resurrection is a warm, expanding sweetness. This is what lasts in and beyond time. It is only now that I begin to realize… it is only now my eyes are opening…
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Working with a Giving Attitude

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in BOLD BELIEVER | Christian Living, The Blog | 2 comments

We’ve all heard that, “it’s better to give than to receive.” The bible says that we’re to give our best (first fruits) to God. But is there a limit to giving? Are we required to serve without compensation in order to please God? I don’t think so.

I do believe we’re all called to give freely, of our “time, treasures and talents.” When we have a choice about how to spend some down time, invest our money or use our skills, there’s no doubt that we should look for ways to pour into the needs around us… without monetary compensation.

However, I don’t see that the Bible makes a distinction between “voluntary” service and “paid” service. Everything we do should glorify God. Whether we are the elephant pooper-scoopers at the circus for minimum wage, volunteering Saturday nights at a homeless shelter or a surgeon removing a brain tumor…it’s all for Him.

There is never room for giving less than our best if we’re doing what God tells us. That includes complaining about the job or boss, showing up late, goofing off or giving minimal effort. This applies equally to paid and unpaid commitments.

It’s really challenging to keep paid employees satisfied (I’m speaking as a co-owner of a business). No matter what benefits, perks and pay are provided; it seems that a lot of employees feel like it’s not enough. Managing volunteers is even more challenging. They sometimes have an attitude that, “I’m doing you a big favor for just showing up,” so anything more than that is a bonus. This attitude doesn’t reflect anything God talks about when work is discussed in the Bible.

On the flip side, it’s easy to be taken advantage of because misguided (and sometimes desperate) people will take and take and take if we keep giving. I believe that pastors are almost always under-paid for the jobs they do. I also believe that it should be the goal/plan of every church to work toward making women’s, children’s and youth ministry directors paid positions. Even if they are part-time, they need to be treated with respect and given fair compensation for the long hours, creativity and dedication these jobs demand.

I happen to believe this is true of writing and speaking as well. I spend hours each week doing both…and much more of it is done for free than for any payment. I love serving God and it thrills me to bring hope, encouragement or even a smile to people, but there is a stewardship issue to consider. I owe it to God and my husband to find a good balance of how much I give away for free and how much I expect to be compensated for to meet physical needs. Each of us must find this equilibrium in our work.

Have you ever felt taken advantage of as an employee or volunteer? Have you seen employees that give a minimal effort? Share below.

Diane Markins

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Your Foundational Verses

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in GRACE for More (Faith, Hope, Empowerment), The Blog | 2 comments

In 2016 our church is focusing on foundation. They’re using it in a cutesy double entendre because it not only applies to our core beliefs, it just so-happens that the church is moving to a new location where a foundation has to be built.

The pastor will be basing his messages on 40 key verses from the Bible. I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to narrow it down to such a measly number of verses. Do you focus on the ones that explain or declare the salvation message? Do you place heavy weight on the history of the Old Testament? How about the words of hope and encouragement? Or do you really zero in on wisdom for daily living?

It would be impossible to pare down this treasure trove to just a few tidbits, right?

I’ll confess, I’m pretty bad about memorizing scripture…particularly with references. But, each year I ask God to direct me toward a verse that I center myself around… foundational verses, you could say. You’re dying to know, aren’t ya?

I’ll get to it in a minute. First let me tell you about some from the past. One of my favorites is:

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”  Joel 2:25

Your response might be, “I don’t get it” or “Never heard that one before” or “Did you have a bug infestation that year?”

Not to get into too many nasty details, but I was pretty far from living the life God wanted me to for a while. The first couple chapters of Joel refer to God’s warning to sinful people (Israel) and telling them to knock it off or else. They didn’t, the pesky locusts ravaged their land and there was nothing to eat. This puts a huge dent in one’s capacity for joy.

When they stopped all the nonsense and turned back to the Lord, He began to bless them hugely.

That little verse is a simple reminder that when we get back on track with God, He will make things right. I needed that and it was my focus verse for more than a few years. There are lasting consequences to sin and, like turning a massive ship around in the ocean, it’s not always a quick process.

Another verse I held onto for a few years was:

“You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17

It was a season of concern for my kids (eh, teenagers!) and I spent a lot of energy trying to fight and fix things. God gave me this verse to remind me that sometimes there is absolutely nothing we can do except trust Him to slug it out for us. All ended very well!

I promised I’d get back to this year’s verse. Well, I fooled you because I honestly don’t know yet. More time in prayer, reading some of those long-forgotten verses and listening to God are in order before I get the message. My bad. I promise to post it as a comment and on social media when I land on it.

Until then, would you take a few seconds to offer a couple of your foundational verses – those that have held you together or brought you hope… or empowered you to take giant steps in a new direction?

We all need the foundation that at least 40 verses can add to our lives.

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Due for an “I” Check

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Healthy Choices, The Blog | 1 comment

My amazingly gifted and successful author/friend Vicki Kuyper nails some pretty important truths in this post. Read, comment and share. You might win a copy of her book, “A Tale of Two Biddies: A New Wrinkle on Aging with Grace.”

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Due for an “I” Check

by Vicki Kuyper

Nope. I’m not Diane. But I do know her, and having been interviewed on her radio show in the past, I feel as though I know a bit about you, as well. One thing we share in common is that we’re all older than we were last year. Aging happens. That’s what my book, “A Tale of Two Biddies: A New Wrinkle on Aging with Grace,” is all about. Here’s an excerpt I think we can all relate to:

We grow old in the blink of an eye. However, growing up takes considerably longer. Some of us never really do, even though we live into our 80s and beyond. That’s because growing up involves maturing and maturing involves change. And change is hard.

We like our ruts. We eat the same thing for breakfast. Hang out with the same friends. Wear the same mom jeans we wore when our children were young—if we’re lucky enough to not have bumped up the waist size a time or two. Our favorite songs are the same ones we played on our car radio back when those bands were actually on top of the charts, instead of touting their fourth Farewell Reunion Tour.

But what if the ruts we’ve worn into our lives are leading us somewhere we never intended to go? What if we’re selfish, mean-spirited and cynical? Not that we see ourselves that way. What we see when we look in the mirror may be an independent, truth-telling realist. Of course, if we need reading glasses to decipher a price tag, perhaps the way we see ourselves has also grown a bit fuzzy over time. We may be way past due for an “I” check.

Who are we…really?

The older we get, the more stuck in our ruts we become. That means there’s no better time to re-evaluate our habits, our worth, our faith and our future than right now. Let’s trade in that Bucket List for a Becoming List. What kind of biddy do we want to become?

Getting older is a privilege. It’s a gift not everyone receives. So how do we accept it with open arms and enjoy it with a hopeful heart in spite of the challenges it brings our way?

Deuteronomy 30:19 niv says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” We can’t control the aging process. But we do have a choice as to how we’re going to face each day that comes our way. Each choice we make helps shape our heart, as well as our life. We can choose what draws us closer to God and closer to becoming the women God created us to be. That’s life at it’s finest.

But the choice is up to us. Just ask my Mom.

My mother excels at choosing life. Over a decade ago she had a series of life-threatening strokes. After awaking from a coma, she had to relearn to swallow, eat, walk, read and so much more. Every day was a challenge. She spent months in a rehabilitation hospital, many more months recovering at home and years continuing to slowly regain most of the abilities she’d lost.

Now in her 80s, my mom takes line dancing classes, goes to the gym and loves to travel. Just a few months ago, last year we flew to London to take a Transatlantic cruise, just the two of us. Mom said when she told her friends at The Village (her retirement community) about her upcoming trip, not one of them wanted to go. As a matter of fact, she said they really weren’t interested in going any farther than The Village’s front door.

“They’re alive,” she said, “but they’re already dead.”

She was so right. We choose life, or death, every day. So, fellow biddy-in-training, which will you choose today?

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Renewed Sense of Get-it-together

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in Healthy Choices, The Blog | 1 comment

Jesus. No, that was not a cuss word. I just like to randomly throw His name out there so I remind myself to pay attention and to remind Him to pay attention to me.

While He’s supposed to be the reason for the season, I’m not sure how He’d feel about the Christmas weight I’ve gained and my depleted bank account. But that was last year. Now I’m looking in a forward direction toward 2016 with optimism and a renewed sense of get-it-together.

I’m determined not to let my stiff, flabby body get any stiffer or flabbier. Really. Watching some of the elders in my midst over the holidays I was reminded that I (and YOU) will be there one day in the future. I want to be the old woman who can get up out of a chair and walk without looking like a drunk toddler. That means right this very minute I have to be more serious about recapturing some of my escaped fitness. I wish I had a buddy to work out with…in the past that has been the butt-kicking factor to keep me faithful. Anybody? Bueller?

The next best thing would be a trainer (which is wonderful when you actually want to make your exercise excursion count for something), but second on my list of do-better-in-2016 is be wiser with my spending. Better hold off on that trainer.

I ordered a fitbit (everyone in my family has one and constantly talking about how many steps they’ve walked… blah blah blah). Maybe this ugly piece of jewelry will shame me into shape. It’s 11 AM and I’ve already hit 6200. (Oh no, I sound like them! Sorry.)

As far as over-spending goes, I’m mostly challenged on gift-giving (one of my love languages…so there’s that) and eating out. I love to eat (especially when someone else cooks and cleans up) so maybe that’s a new love language to add to the list? Something to consider.

I guess just because they are delightful to me, avoiding exercise, eating out and spending are not hobbies I should keep. Awareness is the first step to change, right? I’m going to try to leave those little habits in the archives of 2015.

What’s hard for you to give up or correct? Is it far out on the hazy horizon or smack in front of you beeping like a radar? If 2016 is truly your year to get-it-together, I pray you’ll stay committed and have bodacious bragging rights next December.



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New Year, New You

Posted by on Dec 28, 2015 in The Blog | 6 comments

We’re on our final approach and ready for landing in a new year. As always, many of us have been scarfing down the goodies since Thanksgiving without coming up for air. Now we’re bummed that the scales are tipping decidedly to the right and it doesn’t help much to take our shoes off.

I’m not going to give specific weight loss tips because every grocery store check-out line is replete with magazines offering just that. What I will say is stop
making excuses and start doing something. There are two keys to getting back in shape and feeling better.

  1. Choose one…it doesn’t matter which one! Pick an eating and/or exercise plan and follow it. Completely and literally. It’s nearly impossible to just start eating “a little better” and garner any kind of results. Great minds have come up with scientifically designed programs that have helped people succeed. Determine which one works best for you. Weight Watchers has the advantage of feeling like a club with a cheering section and has meeting options that accommodate almost anyone’s schedule. If you’re not a joiner and don’t like to cook, have prepared meals shipped to you via Jenny Craig or Nutra System. If cost of “programs” is a concern, buy a book like South Beach Diet and go it alone…but follow it 100%.

One reason for failure is people dabble. They eat things not on the approved list, eat too much of allowed foods, don’t eat everything they’re supposed to or don’t drink enough water. A new eating plan is like working out a math problem. If you miss a step you’ll never get the answer you desire.

Most experts agree that diet and workout go together for optimum results. Start slow and increase your activity. Lots of people panic after the holidays and hit the gym really hard for a week or two, only to injure themselves. Find a good video to follow or, if you can afford it, hire a trainer. The safety and encouragement are worth the expense.

2.   Commit and follow through for at least eight weeks. We get all fired up and pledge to make changes but after a few weeks (or even days!) the enthusiasm fades. We might lose a couple pounds but no genuine improvement has taken place.

Ponder the past. What have you tried that worked? What techniques have you used in life that helped you stay the course? Give serious thought to your new plan before you begin. Failed attempts only lead to discouragement and more failed attempts. Put some things in place to give yourself a better shot at sticking with it.

A food diary, weekly weigh-ins with a friend, a workout buddy…anything that incorporates accountability will boost your long-term success rate. Best bets are life coaches and personal trainers, but even a good friend can make a difference.

The condition of our bodies play a huge role in the ability we have to complete everything God has planned for us. What have you tried? Any encouraging tips for others?

Diane Markins

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Marnie Swedberg

Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in BOLD BELIEVER | Christian Living, The Blog | 1 comment

This truly moving and inspirational guest post by Marnie Swedberg will rev your faith up. I encourage you to take two minutes to read it!

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

God’s Vessel

by Marnie Swedberg

She was whispering, the stranger on the other end of the phone conversation. She was asking if we could meet somewhere. She sounded desperate.

I’d been minding my own business, tending to my children, when the phone rang that night. Within thirty minutes I found myself at a restaurant, with a total stranger, listening to a sad, scared, confused woman share her life story.

She’d gotten my name from a relative who knew of me online, and had called me from her bathroom, where she was hiding from her drunk and angry husband.

I had no idea what to say or how to help. All I could do was to listen to her while listening to God as He flowed words of comfort, instruction, and hope through me to her. Some of the words that came out of my mouth shocked me, and I remember walking out of her upside-down life, after two short hours, not knowing if she’d be OK or if I’d ever see or hear from her again. I just knew it was what I was supposed to do.

Over the next several days and weeks, whenever I wondered about her, I’d lift her up in prayer. It’s one of my habits: To think of you is to pray for you.

And then, one day, it happened. I was coming out of a building as she was walking in. We nearly collided. To my shock and amazement, her face lit up like the sun, she gave me a huge hug, and she said, “Oh! It’s you! I can’t believe I get to see you!”

She went on to tell me how things had totally turned around after our meeting. Her husband, who’d been a drunk on the couch for months, had gotten up, found a job, and was participating in the family again. She gushed gratitude as she ran off toward her next appointment.

Stuff like this happens to me all the time as I yield my availability, mind, and body to God as a flow through vessel.

God created us to be His flow through vessels, and the beauty of the process is that anything He wants to flow through you, He must flow to you first.

A stranger needs encouragement? He had flowed life experiences, faith, and encouragement to me first, so I could I share it with her. Someone needs money? Guess what? You can’t give money you don’t have. If God intends to flow anything good through you, He will flow it to you first.

God is far better than our finite minds can fathom and His plans exceed our greatest hopes and dreams. He wants to be our Source for everything and the way He established this possibility is to create us as flow through vessels.

Being God’s conduit—transferring His life, love, and provision from heaven to earth, is the greatest honor available to a human, and the benefits are awesome. They begin with the seed of a peace that passes understanding, blossom into joy that thrives through the harshest storms of life, and reach full bloom as the outcomes of that process are poured graciously into the lives of others.

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