Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family Photo

Louise Emily Ochs 1903 - 1981

How much do you know about the history of your family? My mother has been researching our family tree for more than 30 years and has gathered an impressive amount of information. You just can't imagine the endless hours of research it requires to uncover one detail about a person. I admire her level of commitment to the project and am grateful she has taught us to appreciate our family. However, it wasn't until recently that I fully understood why a name in a file was so important that she would put so much effort into finding it.

Years ago I designed a website for the family tree so Mom could share a portion of the information she had gathered with our large scattered family. It would prove to be much more effective than riffling through bulky binders filled with documents on holidays when the family would gather to celebrate together. Names, faces and family lineage was easier to grasp this way. Recently, we decided it was time for a website 'makeover' and discussed options. After a quick google, to our delight we found an online service called that, among other things, includes marvelous features for hunting down long lost family members. We opened an account and moved into her new 'online' family home. Then something happened.

One of the features provided is access to databases owned by When you have entered information about a deceased family member, the information is shared among all the other 'genealogy groupies' (you can't imagine!) to see if they may be researching the same people. 'Hints' about information they've found about your loved one are signaled by a little green leaf on your file. No kidding, three leaves and I was completely hooked! We spent hours clicking on those leaves. By the end of the first day I had been introduced to more than twenty more people. No, not just people, they were my family. It wasn't enough to settle for a few details, we wanted everything we could find. The only thing that could make it more exciting was to find a photo to attach to the file. It was like finding gold! It was then you could attach all the facts with a face! I love the photos. People weren't as comfortable in front of the camera as we are now, but you could still see a bit of their personality in the slight turn of a smile or a sparkle in their eyes as in the photo of my Grandmother above. She was such a character.

Suddenly I began to feel connected to them in a familiar way. I imagined their odyssey when they left their homeland and navigated the ocean in what must have been brutal traveling conditions. Mom and I reveled in each person we found. We imagined what it must have been like to live in that time period and researched their hometowns. We felt the loss when we found their death records, many of them were so young. I began to understand why my mother invested so much of her life researching the past. We are as connected to it as we are to the future.

Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV
Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

There's just something so cool about the thought of God experiencing great pleasure, isn't there? It's clear that family was His desire for himself and His gift to us. He designed the family and in doing so we learned to appreciate the fullness of His gift of relationship with Him. Though it's fun to look back into the history of my family it's even more exciting to look forward to the largest family reunion we'll ever attend!

Can you imagine that family photo?

Blessings. I'm off to turn some leaves!


Sunday, June 8, 2008


Case File: Your Name Here
Forensic Report: Fingerprint Analysis

The popularity of crime dramas on TV has intensified incredibly in the last decade. So much so, that CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has 2 spin-offs; the first being CSI: Miami and in 2004 CSI: NY premiered. We can't get enough forensic science for our insatiable diet and CBS has been happy to feed us an ample supply. Even if you don't routinely watch a crime drama on TV, it is safe to say you are familiar with forensic science. At the very least, fingerprints in particular. Locating and recovering fingerprints is an interesting task. Can you imagine how many fingerprints we leave on things in a day? It would be amazing if we could see how many we leave and where we leave them, but you need special electronic, chemical and physical processes to find them. So, although they seem invisible, we know they are there.

Today I'd like to share a valuable life lesson I learned about serving God that has come up in recent conversations with several of my friends. They feel ineffective in ministry because they don't feel what they do is significant. They want better results. - Yep. Hand to brow and I'm shakin' my head!

Admittedly, I giggled at their concern because I know these ladies and I assure you, they ARE effective for Christ! They have a love for people so evident it draws you to them like a moth to a porch light. They welcome you in and you feel loved almost instantly. Can you calculate the impact their fingerprint of love has on people? How do you chart making someone feel special to you? Our society conditions us to believe we need tangible results or there are none. It just isn't so.

It's reasonable to think we need tangible results given how our society functions. We live in a culture that thrives on numbers, projections and charts! (Oh My!) Often ministry requires a business structure. It is vital in monitoring the efficacy of one course or another and can be very helpful. But again, how do you chart love? As individuals, we are commissioned with the sole purpose of bringing people into relationship with Jesus Christ by loving them. Isn't that ministry too?

One common fallacy I often hear about ministry is an 'off-the-clock' mentality. I giggle, often it seems, because as Christians our work isn't limited to a special group gathering for a targeted audience and we certainly don't clock out at 5:00! I believe it is time to stop limiting our perspective. Ministry begins in our capacity to love ourselves and EVERY person we come into contact with. Ministry opportunities occur within our families, with our neighbors, the cashier at the store and with co-workers . . . ANY ONE you have contact with is changed by what you say or do. Sit and absorb that for a sec. When we take inventory of our works for the Lord should we only factor in what is accomplished during 'organized ministry hours'?

Dear friends, you are impacting the Kingdom. No matter how ineffective or limited you think you are in ministry, you have a full time ministry opportunity all day, every day. Your actions are changing people and they in turn change others. The significance rests in how you treat them. Do you love them? Will they in turn be loving to others? Don't be discouraged because you don't see results. I went through years of efforts wondering if it was worth it. God would often give me a glimpse to encourage me. In faith I stood firmly on God's word.

1 Cor 15:58 NLT So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Loving people is the Lord's work. It is a priority and the mandate of the Lord for a reason! Loving people with the same sacrificial love Jesus had for us will not go unnoticed. Love changes lives. This directive is a full time job and we are always on duty. Your love can impact the Kingdom in ways you will never discover until that day we stand before Him. Just think about how many people you come into contact with every day and in turn, how many they do. The magnitude of our influence on others is enormous when you imagine the love you give shapes love shared.

It's worth repeating. . . the love you give, shapes love shared. It's a bit like fingerprints. How often do you think you'll stand out from the crowd if you share love in the capacity that Jesus did? Do you think people will want to know why you are different? Keep in mind loving others is a ministry commissioned by Jesus Christ himself. Is it worthwhile? He answered that with the cross. I liken our Christian influence to fingerprint impressions. Sometimes you can't see it but you know it's there. What kind you leave behind is up to you.

Just ask Jesus. His fingerprint is on you. - Will your fingerprint be on them?
Blessings and chin up! - LaVella

Friday, June 6, 2008

Why Ask?

Matthew 1:7-8
7 Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Gasp. . . What if it is that easy?
As a small child I heard my mother say frequently, “Why didn’t you just ask?” This question usually followed, yet was not limited to, a mishap where something was spilled or fell on my head from a cabinet shelf too high to reach. Granted, there was a slight tone of frustration in her voice but the message was clear. Mom was ready to assist in most every situation with that little bitty word, “help”, (actually it was “please help”, she insisted on politeness too!)

So why, oh why, didn’t I ‘Just Ask’ more frequently?

Because sometimes the answer was “No.”!

Is it fair to say, created with a strong desire to be autonomous, we begin to exert our will at an early age? Well, perhaps not you, but it certainly was for me! Depending on personality we could hear similar requests from our parents for most of our childhood. As strong-willed as I was, I learned fairly quickly it was an easier road to a smile on Mom’s face to include her and that beautiful smile rendered good rewards a-plenty. She had a great system. The threat of my dad’s displeasure was enough to keep me in check in most situations. On occasion I would push the boundary when I discerned my ability a ‘sure thing’. I was confident I could do it or, much later, perhaps confident I wouldn’t get caught. (Oh, you know you did it too!) Successes and failures were lessons in themselves, but the greatest lesson learned was discovering the abundant love my parents had for me. It is a lesson I have shared with my children.

If you need anything, please just ask.

God offers us this same useful service, with or without His hand on his hip, just as my Mom did. Without question His message is the same. He loves us and wants the best for us, He wants us to come to Him for our needs, wants and desires even when it's out of our reach. By prayer (asking!) we draw into a closer relationship with Him and can, with His help, navigate through our lives. Perhaps with fewer things falling on our heads, huh? Without question, He will be ready to assist. Even if the answer is sometimes slow to follow or the occasional, "No."

God bless you, today. And if you need anything, well, you get the idea!