Saturday, August 03, 2013

Honor at the City Gates

Yami and I were sitting on the bench under the shade of a tree discussing life and marriage. She is only twenty-one and I have been married now twenty-one years.  I love my moments with Yami because she wants to honor God in every area of her life.

I said to her, “Do you realize I have been married as long as you have been alive?”

“WOW!” she replied.

“Yami, this morning in my prayer time, I realized something. For twenty-one years, I have prayed that I am like the Proverbs 31 woman. I have asked God to use me to bring honor to my husband at the city gates based on Proverbs 31:23, but I have never asked God to specifically to bring me honor through my husband at the city gates.”

Yami replied, “Wouldn’t it be wrong for you to ask God to bring you honor through your husband?”

“No, not in the way that Proverbs 31 is referencing character. See, by praying for me to bring my husband honor at the city gates. I am praying for Godly influence and character. This is not about a personal focus, but a recognition that I am for God and true in all ways. It is a prayer for integrity, honesty, hard work, and open arms that lend a hand. So, this morning when it occurred to me that in twenty-one years of marriage I had never asked God to bring me honor through my husband at the city gates, it wasn’t so much about me, but about what this implies about praying into his character. 

A person who brings honor at the city gates based on Proverbs 31 is someone that fears the LORD and all who know of this person will see this and praise the person (Proverbs 31: 31).  If I am walking in these truths my husband is honored because he has chosen well and has a wife of noble character. If I am brought honor at the city gates because of my husband it is the same. It is all about noble character that glorifies God. Of course, I have prayed many of these principles into my Greg, but the phrase "honor at the city gates" sums up so many truths that will bring about the glory of God. I like how the phrase sums it all up!”

How about you? How are you praying for you to bring your husband honor at the city gates or that your husband bring you honor at the city gates? These are prayers that give our marriages strength and in the end bring glory to God.

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” “Give her the reward she has earned and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:23).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Caught Not Taught

I walked into the "man cave" to say good-bye to Greg and DongMin . As was Greg's custom, he air kissed me "mmmt, mmt" as a reminder that he wanted me to kiss him good-bye. To my total surprise, DongMin, "mmmt, mmt'd" me as well. Immediately, I thought, "Does he want me to kiss him good-bye? Can I kiss my foreign exchange son as I do my own son? How sweet!" Then I bent over and kissed him on his beautiful coal black hair. Later in the day, I had to leave to pick Mikayla up from ballet and the guys were still in the "man cave" watching football. Once again, my beloved gave me his faithful hint, "mmmt, mmt." As I bent over to kiss Greg good-bye, DongMin "mmmt, mmt'd" me again and looked with raised eyebrows expressing, "Will you not kiss me as you do Daddy and Grant?" I caught the message and tenderly kissed his cheek. His bright smile made my day.

As I drove to pick up Mikayla, I started to practice my lesson for the Open Door Mission on Monday morning. We were storying Jesus' baptism as a part of a series I wrote on that focuses on the seven moments that Luke refers to that Jesus prayed. It suddenly occurred to me; nowhere in scripture does it say that Jesus told the disciples that they must make it their custom to go off to a solitary place to pray. Scripture simply tells us repeatedly that as was His custom Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to pray. The concept of prayer observed in Jesus' model so impacted the disciples that they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and Paul later wrote to the Thessalonians' that they needed to pray without ceasing. The disciples caught the value of prayer. Jesus did not teach it! He lived it! Yes, I know He taught them upon their request how to pray, but what changed their lives was the way He modeled prayer. It is amazing how the disciples always knew where to find Him in His solitary place. Even the crowds knew where to go and look.

The things that tend to stick in our lives are best caught more than taught. The lesson tends to happen without us ever knowing we just walked into a life transforming moment. I envision DongMin expecting his beautiful bride to give him a kiss each time she leaves the home just like my Greg does with me. A life habit caught not taught. Greg and I never intended to teach DongMin the value of a good greeting, but our habit taught him this life lesson. As we move into the Christmas season, I wonder how many life-transforming lessons he will catch from us. What will he learn about our love for the LORD? How we celebrate Him as our Savior in a materialistic world?

What lessons will others catch from your life habits? What are some lessons or habits have you caught? Which ones are worthy of keeping and which ones should you let go of?

Father, please help us to be mindful that others catch more from what they observe in our daily habits than we realize.

I wonder does "mmmt, mmt" translate the same way in Korean as it does English.

"Man cave" (a hole in our basement that is set apart for men to watch football and play guy games without women bothering them). I just realized that this is another life habit he is taking back to Korea from our home!



Tuesday, June 04, 2013


I recently wrote this letter in response to an email asking me about marriage. After talking with the person who wrote the note and with Greg, we felt that this might be a good note to share with many.


God has a great plan for us in our marriages, but honestly, marriage is not for cowards! It is hard work because GOD's goal is not to make us happy, but to make us HOLY! (Dr. Gary Chapman, Sacred Marriage). Jesus says clearly that if we want to follow HIM we must die to our self. Marriage is the training ground for denying self. Selfishness is revealed more in marriage than in any other place in our lives because it is the place we are most likely to let ourselves relax before the other. At work, we don't want to make the boss mad. We just do it. At church, we wear the mask because we don't want anyone to know we are struggling. We wear the mask of perfectionism. With our friends and neighbors, we do the same thing. But, at home, we are our truest selves.

Every marriage struggles. If anyone says they do not, then they lie. We cannot interact this intimately and not deal with our selfish selves.

We must have open communication. We must be able to share with one another our needs without the fear of the others retaliation. This means that we must recognize that if our spouse says, "I need this..." we show our love for them by not taking it as a put down, but view it as an opportunity to say, "Ok, LORD, if my spouse says I need this... then how can I die to me to meet this need." This is HARD! Because, it means I must die to me. Greg must die to Greg.

See, marriage is built on vulnerability. LOVE HURTS! We cannot walk around in fear of being hurt. If you do then you will be! At the same time, we need to ask, "Why is my beloved hurting? How can I keep him from hurting?"

I challenge you to write out what you need from your spouse to know that you are loved and then write out what you know your spouse needs from you. Prayerfully ask GOD how to minister to your spouse. If possible, have your spouse do it, too. Then take the time see if you are truly meeting his needs.

Then do a quick check to see if you are out of balance in any area that you know is a need. Remember, God first and then spouse is the true order of love in your home. We can quickly know our where our love resides based upon our time commitment.

Remember, fear is not of GOD if it is of man. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom! The fear of the LORD shuns away evil (Job 28:28). You must cast out your fears. Give them to GOD and allow Him to say, "Do not be afraid!"

As for stinking thinking, we all have it. This is why we are told to think on, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil. 4:8).

We must train our minds to focus on Jesus and that which is holy. Remember marriage is to make us holy not happy! Does this mean we should not be happy? NO, but it does mean that when we are unhappy we really need to be asking, "Okay, LORD, how do you want me to be holy in this? How can I die to myself for my spouse?"

We all must do spiritual tests at times even in our marriages. This is not a new thing. One quick look at the Bible and we see from the start that marriage brought complications. Eve enticed Adam to sin. Abraham lied about Sarah. Nabal was a fool and almost had all of his family and servants killed by David and his men, but his wife Abigail intervened. Marriage will have its conflicts. This is why we cannot forget that we are all the Bride of Christ. So what I do to Greg, I am doing to Jesus' bride and vice versa. This really makes us think twice before we act. I don't want to be the one to hurt the LORD's Bride. Do you?

GOD has a plan for your marriage. If your spouse is hurting enough to write this email then you need to start asking, "Jesus, how can I heal my wife's heart?" It is your responsibility as her husband to lift her up as Christ lifts up the church. She is not feeling lifted by you right now. You need to ask yourself why? And do everything you can to lift her up. Maybe ya'll need to go away for the weekend without the kids and without responsibilities. Maybe both of you need to take time to cry and literally wash each other's feet and remind each other of why you chose each other. I remember when Greg and I were married for 8 years or so. I was exhausted with two little ones. Greg was always gone at work. I was alone and broken. I called my mom and asked her to take the kids. Greg and I talked and I washed his feet. We needed to learn to serve the other and allow the other to serve us. But, that time caused us to step back and bring restoration and healing to our marriage. It made us stronger. We must always remember we are for each other and not against each other. Our spouse is not our enemy. They are the one we committed to love, honor, and cherish.

However, in many ways our spouse is a weed eater. GOD uses them to show us all the weeds that still need to be pulled from our heart garden.

Can both of you say you are fulfilling what you committed to? I imagine both of you will be put to the test to say, not really. So, I encourage you both to recommit and do your vows again to each other.

When we struggle in our marriages, it is the normal process of GOD making us holy. Every marriage goes through this. Some choose to honor GOD and seek holiness, some choose to ignore it and live miserably and some choose to divorce. I pray you will choose to honor GOD and honor each other.  




Friday, April 05, 2013

Author Interview with Heather Gray for Mail Order Man

While in The Smokey Mountains several years ago at a speaking engagement I met Heather Gray through a chance encounter with her daughter. This in of itself is an amazing story, but for now it will remain unspoken. Heather and I have become sweetly entwined as only the LORD can bind two together through social media and shared conversations of how to draw near to God in our deepest and greatest need. Gray recently published her first book: Mail Order Bride. I have not read it yet, but I have ordered it on Kindle. Here is my interview with her about her new book. Please help me support a sister in Christ as she begins a new journey. THE BOOK PROMO: Some people get a mail order bride. She got a mail order man. A well-meaning friend places an ad to find a mail order husband for Sarah, the proprietress of Larkspur’s stage and mail office. Sarah, who is generally quiet and reserved, doesn’t know about the ad and has no idea what to do with all the people that are showing up in her community. Before long, the town is overrun with men and mail alike. Sarah is trying to avoid some men who have accosted her on the street when she stumbles into Samuel. Through long days spent together at the stage office, some very adventurous pots of coffee and a shared faith, the two become friends. Sarah knows that Samuel is hiding something from her, something important, but that doesn’t stop her heart from leaping wildly into love. Lacking the confidence to trust her heart, Sarah wars with herself over the feelings she can no longer deny. When some of the men who have come to town show their true intentions, a shootout follows. Sarah finally gets answers to many of the questions circling through her mind. One question remains, though. Where will her mail order man go when the dust settles? ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her. WHY DID YOU WRITE IT? I'm not sure if you're asking why I wrote this particular story or why I decided to take writing seriously and try to get published, so I've answered both. I wrote this particular story because I wanted something to read one day, and I thought a historical romance would be just the thing. It seemed that everyone I looked at on that particular day, though, was a mail order bride story. I have enjoyed those types of stories before, but I was in the mood for something different that way. After the sixth or seventh mail order bride book I looked at, though, I decided that there had to be a new and creative take on the story. That's when the idea for Mail Order Man was born. The first words weren't penned until at least a year later -- The week after my daughter's memorial service, a friend asked me what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I had been in the process of buying a business before she became ill. I desperately needed a change, though, and on top of that, I no longer had the drive to run or build a business. That same friend suggested that I give writing a try. When the next day came, I started writing. I wasn't sure what would come of it, but I had always written to help me process emotions and find solutions to situations. Writing made me feel good; it made me feel alive. At a time when I battled grief in fits and starts, writing became a sanctuary. One day got to the end of the story and realized I'd done it – I'd written an entire novel! By then I knew that I had to pursue getting it published and that I needed to keep writing. In the midst of sadness and grief, I found a tangible way to give God the glory. Life is not as simple as good or bad, happy or sad. I discovered that I could be heartbroken while excited about a writing project. I could ask God why He needed to take her from us while still praising Him for all that He is to us. I can cry tears of sorrow for myself and my loss while I cry tears of joy for all that my baby girl gained when she went to be with Jesus. Life will never be simple. It will always be complex and layered, sometimes downright difficult to understand. God gave me a voice, though, in the midst of the most difficult time I've been through in my life to date. He also gave me a choice about what to do with that voice. I won't claim to have all the answers or to always say things the right way, but I will do my best each and every day of my life to use the voice He's given me to point people to Him and to create characters that, through their own life situations, highlight God's goodness and mercy and grace. WHAT DID YOU LEARN? I learned that it's difficult to find "stock photos" of modestly dressed people for cover art. I need to put a little more thought into what goes onto the cover of books in the future. That cover is people's first impression, and I need it to accurately represent the tone of the what's between the covers of the book. I learned not to be quite so "preachy." I had so much I wanted to say, and there are places in this book where I went overboard. Sections of it are "preachy," and while that's all well and good, it's not often what people want to find in a novel with which they are hoping to relax. I am doing a better job now of weaving the faith of my characters into the plots of my stories and allowing the actions of my characters to speak of their faith for them, using words only when necessary. In Mail Order Man, I'm afraid that there are some scenes where my characters are beating each other over the heads with their proverbial Bibles. I learned that I need to get to know my characters a little bit before I commit them to paper. Otherwise, they come across as having a split personality. I learned not to follow a formula. When I started this book, I got some guidelines from a well-known publisher of romance. It had a "formula" for writers to follow. X has to happen by the end of the first chapter, Y has to happen at least five times, Z needs to happen in this part of the book, etc. Though many of those formulaic points are still in this book, I won't be following that system again. This is my new philosophy: If I don't feel natural writing something for my characters, then they won't seem natural doing it. I learned TONS of things I'd long forgotten about grammar, usage and mechanics. I am so thankful for editors who had every right to roll their eyes as my repeated mistakes but instead kindly explained what I was doing wrong so that I could learn how to do it correctly. I learned that I can do it. I can write a novel from beginning to end. I am capable. Somehow, knowing that has made a difference in how I approach each writing project since. I learned that God is bigger than I thought, greater than I dreamed and more than I imagined. WHAT MADE YOU STRUGGLE? I have to be honest – I don't think I knew enough to understand that I was supposed to be struggling! I was blessed to be able to write this first book without any great difficulties. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm spoiled now and will expect every writing project to go as smoothly. Having said that, I now find that I struggle with balance in the stories that I write. I write fiction, and I want my stories to be enjoyable. How do I maintain the tone of the story (be it upbeat, humorous or dramatic), while allowing my characters to uncover and explore spiritual truths in a way that seems natural to the reader and does not detract from the overall tempo of the story? Balance, clarity, wisdom – I need them all! HOW WILL IT BLESS THE READER OR MAKE THE READER CHANGE? There are numerous reasons why people stay away from God – both believers and nonbelievers. I hope, as I continue to write, that I can explore some of these reasons. I want a reader to say, "That's exactly what I was thinking!" I want people who are struggling in their relationship with God to learn something that will help them overcome the impediments keeping them away from either starting a relationship with God or developing a closer one than they currently have. I am still finding my voice, learning how to do this, and discovering how to navigate the industry, but that's what I want from my writing. I want to write books that will help people understand the obstacles they see between themselves and the Almighty can be overcome and that life on the other side of those obstacles is so very worth it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How I became the Dean of Women for Grace University

"Tara, do you think I should go back to school to get my counseling degree?" As I was dialoguing with my friend about whether she move forward to get a masters in counseling; the LORD prompted in my heart a reminder of a childhood dream. As a five-year-old I said, "When I grow up, I want to go to college on a scholarship and I want to be a doctor!" I wasn't thinking medical doctor. I don't even know that I knew what a "doctor" meant. But, I watched how my family celebrated a friends son's accomplishments and I just knew in my heart it had to be for me. I wanted people to be pleased with me, too. My thoughts were immature and naive, but a vision was born and then reignited on that blustery fall afternoon. I went home to share with Greg about the reminder of my dream. He immediately said, "You should do it." So, we prayed and asked God questions. "Why would I get a doctorate?" "For what reasons?" I would like to think I was a lot smarter than my five-year-old need to seek approval, but that little beast comes to haunt me periodically so I must do a God check often on my motives. After much prayer, I realized I longed to be sharpened like iron. I knew I was not giving my best because I needed to learn so much more. After all we can only give what we know and live out. Greg and I both knew I needed to go back to school in order to seek iron. I was not looking for a job or for that matter mans approval. I simply wanted to grow. And grow I did. Like a happy fat caterpillar, I went from class to class the first three years eating up every ounce of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom from my professors and colleagues I could grasp-- getting fat on learning and loving it. But, then I moved to the dissertation phase only to discover that it was dark and lonely just like when a caterpillar is all tied up in his cocoon. It takes a lot of struggle to break free of our cocoons, mostly because we can't fly if we don't form just the right amount of butter on our wings and butter is only formed through struggle. Somehow, I have to show that I can fly with all that knowledge, understanding, and wisdom I had accumalated. Throughout the entire process people kept asking, "So, what do you plan to do with a doctorate?" And on a few occasions a few people encouraged me to quit or even questioned my ability to hear from God. In these moments, Greg and I would go back and pray. "Did we hear You correctly, LORD?" Without question, we always heard a resounding, "Yes!" My answer to those about my goals or plans was simple, "I do not plan to do anything, but what I am currently doing. I went to get my doctorate to be sharpened." I had no goals or plans except to be better at what God had already given me to do. But, in the process God began to grow a new dream. I started longing for a focused group of women to disciple. I think it was at the beginning of my second year at seminary that I was given the privilege of speaking at Grace Universities Women's Retreat. As I watched Marilyn Amstutz, the Dean of Women, minister to the women I had a thought, not a prayer, just a thought. "I would love to do what she does." I never thought of it again. Until one day, while perusing my emails I was asking God who should I send my prospectus to so that I can cast the net about the research I have written about using biblical storytelling among the homeless. Just then I saw an email I had written to the new President of Grace, Dr. Barnes, about three months earlier welcoming his family to our children's school Omaha Christian Academy to Grace. I prayed, "Do I send it to him LORD?" Just as I finished praying, an email came in from Dr. Barnes. For a few seconds I was confused. "Did I send it?" I did not. To my surprise, his email stated that he noticed an email I had sent to him about three months prior and he thought to send me an email to let me know that the position for Dean of Women opened at Grace and that they were accepting applications. He wondered if I might want to pray about it. As I read his email, God reminded me about my thought at the Grace Women's Conference. I felt as if God said to me, "See, even when you do not pray I hear you. I am listening." Greg and I prayed and felt that God wanted us to take the steps to move forward, so I applied. Unknown to Marilyn about the emails between Dr. Barnes and me as she prayed about the position she wondered, "Is Tara Rye ready? Would her family be ready? Is she far enough along at school that she would be open?" She decided to go and tell the Dean of Students, Deb Osmanson. As she walked into Deb's office to tell her, Deb said, "Have you ever heard of Tara Rye?" Sometimes, we do not know why God has us do something, but we can trust Him that if we obey He will show us clearly His plan. If you asked me in November if I would be the Dean of Women at Grace University in January, I would have laughed. But, now that I have taken the steps and moved forward I feel that I have finally made it home. I was sharpened for such a time as this. I am so thankful that God has a plan and that He alone will set the path straight. He only asks us to take our steps moving forward in faith and from there He will make all things clear. Today, January 22, 2013, He is allowing me the privilege to begin my journey as the Dean of Women for Grace University. Father, I commit this to YOU alone, for YOUR glory alone. Use me to disciple countless women to be Your disciples to all nations! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A young friend's letter to her grandma and grandpa

Dear Grandma and Grandpa, First of all, I know you think that I am cute but I am really serious. I love you and I want you to know Jesus the right way. You may already know a lot about him, but may not have him in your heart quite yet. Jesus is the Son of God. I think you already know that. Jesus loves us and he came to take our sins away so we can go to Heaven. Nobody can go to Heaven unless they have Jesus’ spirit in their heart. When you have Jesus in your heart, you live for him and not yourself. It is important to learn God’s words so you know what God and Jesus want you to do. There is a picture in my bathroom at home that has the 10 Commandments. It helps me to know what God wants of me. God wants us to know that he created us and loves us. God must come first in our lives. He is more important than our family, our favorite possessions, our friends, or anything else we can think of. He doesn’t want us to dishonor him by using angry or bad words. We should only use God’s name when we are talking to him or talking about him. He wants us to remember that Sunday is a special day and it should be spent with God and our family. God wants us to respect our own life and the life of others. God gave us life and it is a great gift. God wants us to always tell the truth. Lying and saying bad things about others hurts everyone and makes God sad. God wants us to always be grateful for the life, family, home and faith we have. He wants us to thank Him every day. I am learning Bible verses in school. I am learning that everything I have comes from God. I am learning that I am supposed to trust God all the time. I am supposed to love my enemies and help others. I am supposed to tell God my sins and ask him to forgive me. I am supposed to obey God even when I don’t feel like it. I’m not supposed to gossip, judge or say things to people that will hurt their feelings. I am supposed to tell people about Jesus and how much he loves them. People who have Jesus in their heart are different than other people. They are not better, but they don’t want to be like other people. They want to be like Jesus. They try not to do the things they want to do, but the things Jesus wants them to do. Jesus is their best friend in the whole world. I love you so much! Emma

Thursday, October 04, 2012

To the creators of 16 and Pregnant, Recently, it has been brought to my attention that your television series glorifies teen pregnancy (actually, I just read the title); and I would like to congratulate you on your horrendous morals. In fact, I would like to propose a few ideas for some new series that I believe would be a hit on MTV. My first suggestion is 14 and Pothead. In this series, we follow four teens throughout their everyday lives as they deal with their dealers, friends, and their horrible parents who don't understand what it's like to be young. Tune in this "Marijuana Monday" at 8/7 central to find out if Johnny's parents find his stash! My second proposal is America's Next Top Murderer. Young people of various backgrounds, shapes and sizes compete to prove that they can make it in the high-stress, high-stakes world of murdering. With mentoring by serial killer Tyra Shanks and exposure to prolific criminal gurus, the finalists compete in an accelerated murdering boot camp. Participants learn to handle difficult victims, public venues, and more, all under a 24-hour-a-day surveillance. In the soon-to-be hit series Juvie's Got Talent, we draw that talent from juvenile detention centers all over the United States! Our amateur performers set aside their orange jumpsuits as they compete to win one million dollars in cash. Join us and our three judges as we watch America's most troubled teens battle it out prison-style in hopes of winning our cash prize and their potential bail money. My final suggestion--Grey's Animal Cruelty--follows the animal haters of Seattle as they find new ways to abuse innocent puppies and kittens (as well as some exciting new endangered species)! If you like my ideas, I have many more similar to these, such as Pretty Little Shoplifters, Covert Offensive Language, Saturday Night Lies, Project Run-Away, and So You Think You Can DUI? Thank you for your consideration. You can contact me at Sincerely, 16 and not Pregnant. Mikayla Rye Mrs. Smagacz English 11 30 September 2012