Lisa Stackpole Reflects God’s Love in Words.
To view more writing by Lisa, you can read what was published on the UpperRoom.org website.
One of her essays is A Family of Planners; a second is A Blessing Indeed.
Hi, I’m Lisa Stackpole, And Welcome To My Page!
Good Friends Of Mine From My Bible Study
During my years at the University of Wisconsin, I was introduced to the idea of having a personal relationship with Christ through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU). That started my Christian life.
I taught at a public school for three years after college, and then took a job with a national prison ministry, working first at their national headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area, and then for many years back in my home state of Wisconsin.
After taking an early retirement, I started sharing through my writing some thoughts I had about Christian life. Some pieces have been published in The Upper Room and A Secret Place. I thought I’d share some of the non-published ones on this page. Happy reading and God bless.
Knowing the Shepherd’s Voice
Read John 10:1-5
[The shepherd’s] sheep follow him because they know his voice. — John 10:4 (NIV)
When we were children, my brother and his friends would use a “secret” means to signal each other, blowing into their cupped hands to imitate the sound of birds that were common in the area. Noticing this, I once answered my brother’s call with one of my own. He ran into our back yard expecting to see his friend, only to discover his pesky younger sister, who was delighted at how well she had fooled her brother.
On a more threatening level, scammers today often try to trick unwary seniors by claiming to be a relative in trouble. My sister received a phone call from such a man, who said he was her grandson in need of bail money. Not recognizing his voice, she hung up.
Likewise, as Christians we need to be discerning. In his gospel, John warns us of the thief that will try to steal the sheep who belong to the Good Shepherd. However, the sheep will only run away from such a person; they won’t follow him because they don’t recognize his voice.
Is this true of believers today? Is it true of you? The news and social media bombard us with the latest spin on spirituality, and many people are still quite willing to believe teachers who “…say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3 NIV). Do we recognize our Shepherd’s voice well enough to run away from imitators who desire to hurt us? Through study of God’s word and openness to the Holy Spirit, we can.
Living in Harmony
Read Ephesians 4:1-12
One of the highpoints of my time in high school was playing the flute. The school I attended didn’t have enough musicians to comprise both full band and orchestra, so when a full orchestra was needed, one or two of the students who played each brass or woodwind instrument in the band would switch to the orchestra. At other times the band and orchestra practiced separately. I was fortunate enough to play in both, an experience I loved.
One year the orchestra was playing parts of a well-known ballet for our winter concert. One of the pieces included only strings, so the orchestra practiced it when the band members weren’t there, so our time wasn’t wasted. When we practiced the full program, the conductor would pause in the rehearsal, remind us that at that point of the performance the strings would play the next piece alone, and we would skip that piece and go on to rehearse the next piece that included all of us.
The night of the performance, however, when we reached that part of the program and the strings were ready for their subdued piece, the first chair trumpet player, a very good musician, started in with the loud trumpet introduction that began the following piece — stopping only when he received a furious stare from the conductor and a nudge from the second trumpet. As well as he could play his instrument, when he wasn’t in step with the rest of the orchestra and taking cues from the conductor, the result was far from pleasing.
In the same way, as individual Christians, if we don’t use our God-given gifts in a way that edifies the body of Christ, the church will be known for disorder, not unity. We must follow the instruction of our Director to live and work in harmony.
No Little Sacrifice
Read Zephaniah 3:14-17
The story is told about a pastor who asked a wealthy church member to give more generously to the church. Looking the pastor in the eye, the man responded, “My widowed mother is in need of surgery. My daughter recently totaled her car. My son is unemployed and struggling to raise three small children.” The pastor, realizing the man faced many obligations he had known nothing about, began to stammer his apologies when the man continued, “Since I don’t do anything to help them, why should I help the church?” While humorous, the story makes a point: We sometimes make light of another’s sacrifices, without knowing their struggles.
I study Scripture with a friend whose life has been difficult due to physical limitations. She was tempted to become bitter, but as we studied God’s word I could see the Lord working in her life. One day she said she was trying to be less self centered. “Yesterday at lunch I gave my chocolate cupcake to a man who’s having a hard time.” She paused. “I love chocolate.” While I praised her sacrifice, it was only later that I realized how meaningful it was to her. She lives in a care facility and is unable to get treats for herself that I take for granted. She gave up something she would have greatly enjoyed and could not easily replace, in order to please both her friend and God. I believe that, in the words of Zephaniah, the Lord took great delight in her.
Today’s challenge: Look for opportunities to thank and encourage someone who is making sacrifices to help you, others, or the Lord.
The Power of a Renewed Mind
Read Romans 12:1-8
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
On my sixteenth birthday I received a guitar. I eagerly purchased songbooks and began to practice chord fingerings. At first I stared at my hand, willing each finger to take its place on the strings. Over time it became easier and I could often play without thinking, my hand naturally moving to the correct spots on the guitar’s neck. However, some chord progressions — the movement from one chord to another — remained difficult.
Some time later, I watched a friend play and noticed he fingered the common “G” chord differently than I did. He explained that although playing it that way seemed awkward for him at first, it eventually made it easier for him to do the chord progressions I was finding difficult.
At first I balked at trying the change; however, as I saw how smoothly he played I became convinced it would help me if I was disciplined enough to do it the new way.
Once my mind was made up, there was a period of struggle as my fingers wanted to revert to their old habits. I had to concentrate again to play, which, frankly, was frustrating. However, I persevered because I was convinced that it would be better in the long run, and that was indeed the case. After weeks of practice, the new fingering became second nature, and my overall play greatly improved.
My spiritual life is similar. Until I let my mind be changed—renewed—by the Spirit of God, He cannot make needed alterations in my life. Once I let that happen, the transformation can occur. It is not always instantaneous, but God is faithful.
Today’s Challenge: Is there a life change you know you need to make, but you haven’t felt up to the challenge? Pray that God will help you in the transition, and persevere. Focus on the end result and how much better your life will be when the change has been made. ~ Lisa Stackpole
Just Making Noise
Read Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?” — Luke 6:46 (NIV)
Cooking in unfamiliar surroundings can be challenging, as I recently discovered when vacationing. The kitchenette included a toaster oven but no stove. Nonetheless, I planned the meal and went ahead confidently. When the timer went off, I checked the toaster oven, anticipating a piping hot main dish.
To my dismay, the food was cold. I turned the dial again and was met with the same reassuring clicking sound that had been evident the last several minutes, but no heat was forthcoming. Investigating, I found the plug was not in the outlet, which was hidden behind the appliance. I had assumed the oven was working because it was making all of the right noises. In fact, those sounds had no relevance to its ability to do what it was designed to do, if it is not plugged in to the power source.
My spiritual life is sometimes like that. I make the right noises acknowledging Christ as Lord, but unless my heart is changed and I’m consistently connected to the power only God can supply through his Spirit, I am impotent for kingdom work. It is only through continually abiding in Christ that I can accomplish those things he created me to do.
Today’s Challenge: Ask the Lord if there are times you “talk the talk” but aren’t “walking the walk.” If the Holy Spirit brings anything to mind, ask him how you can be more obedient his will. ~ Lisa Stackpole
Everything That is Needed
Read 2 Timothy 3: 14-17
” …[the gospel] is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes …” Romans 1:16 (NIV).
Pastor Chris worked hard to replace a church door damaged in an attempted break-in. He purchased a new, more secure door and a kit for installing it. Though quite skilled in this type of work, after two hours of frustrated effort he realized that the kit was missing some key parts, so it was impossible to complete the task without purchasing additional pieces. Much time and effort had been wasted on a project doomed from the start.
The following Sunday he relayed the incident, reflecting that, unlike his “do it yourself” kit, the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in God’s Word is complete — it includes everything we need for salvation and service to him. Second Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that Scripture is inspired and “…able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” so that those who follow God may be “… thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (Emphasis mine.)
As we read God’s Word in faith and allow his Holy Spirit apply it to our lives, we can be assured that through Christ’s sacrifice we have what is needed to be acceptable to God — nothing is lacking.
Today’s Challenge: Have you ever started a project only to later realize you didn’t have what was needed to complete it? Spend time thanking God that his plan for salvation is complete in Christ.
~ Lisa Stackpole
Soaking Him In
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”–2 Cor. 3:16 (NIV).
I had planned well for the vacation. The car was packed and my maps were ready. What I neglected to do as I hurried out the door was to rinse out my breakfast cereal bowl. It was there on the counter when I got back two weeks later, the remaining flakes now firmly attached.
I rinsed it out, but the bits of cereal stubbornly refused to release their hold, so I set it in my dishwasher, confident that the force of the water spray would complete the task. However, when the cycle was over and drying period through, some recalcitrant flakes still remained, seemingly a part of the bowl itself. What it needed, I realized, was a good, long soaking. After sitting in a sink full of water for several hours, the last morsels of grain finally let go.
Each of us comes into our life with Christ with a background of sinful “flakes” clinging to us. Some can be removed with a quick rinsing, as God in his grace swiftly takes certain bad habits from our lifestyle. Some take more rigorous action, such as the dishwasher, as God gives us the strength to submit ourselves to his discipline. But certain behaviors, attitudes, and thought patterns can best be changed by quietly sitting in his presence over time, meditating on his Word, and soaking in his grace as he works into the very fabric of our lives, transforming us to his likeness.
Today’s Challenge: If you are a believer and have accepted Christ’s sacrifice to reconcile you to God, look back over your life in Christ. What ungodly habits, thoughts, and actions has he removed from your lifestyle? Did he do it almost immediately, in a quick “rinsing?” Did it take some more vigorous action, as you submitted yourself to his cleansing work as you dealt with challenging circumstances? Or did it happen over time as you listened to him in prayer and allowed the Holy Spirit to change you? Thank God for his ongoing work in your life as he continues to make you into the image of his Son. ~ Lisa Stackpole
Read Ephesians 6:10-18
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13 (NIV)
Walking down the hallway at the local Middle School, I noticed a sign on a side door to the gymnasium: “Archery Shooting. Do not Enter.” Good advice, I thought with a smile. Only a fool would want to walk into the path of an arrow in flight!
As I reflected on this I realized that sometimes we do just that. In scripture, Paul refers to Satan’s attempts to harm believers as “…the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Yet rather than avoiding situations that might put us in danger, we sometimes take risks, entering situations we know are not in our best interest. In my volunteer work at a state prison, I see men who, after being released from prison where they were active in Christian activities, become involved with the same “friends” with whom they got in trouble in the past, with unfortunately predictable results. I know myself that there are activities — some perfectly lawful — in which I can’t participate because it will set up a pattern of living that pulls me away from Christ. No, staying away from Satan’s “flaming darts” is good advice!
Today’s Challenge: Do you have particular temptations that a friend might help you avoid? Prayerfully consider discussing your tendency with a trusted Christian friend and ask for his/her insights and help. Do you have friends that seem to habitually step in the path of “flaming arrows?” Are there ways you can help them avoid that potential disaster? In either case, bring your concerns to the Lord in prayer. ~ Lisa Stackpole
Prayer in Action
Read Ruth 2: 1-16
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: God may choose to answer prayers through the one who is praying.
As a member of our church’s prayer team, I receive prayer requests from those in our congregation, for themselves or others they know. Sometimes I don’t know the people involved and all I can do is to lift the request up to the Lord.
Other times the petition is for someone I know well. Then I remind myself that prayer is not just telling God our needs, but also listening for His response. God often works through people, and He may choose to work through me to answer the request.
The book of Ruth tells of Boaz, a godly man, who heard of Ruth, a kinswoman in distress, and of her loyalty to her mother-in-law. He said to Ruth, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD…” (Ruth 2:12). But Boaz did not stop there. He also did whatever he could to make his prayer a reality by helping Ruth in many ways.
As we pray, we must be open to God using us to bring about the answer. In so doing, the Body of Christ will be strengthened and God will be glorified.
Today’s Challenge: Are you a part of a prayer group or prayer team? If not, seriously consider joining one through your church. If they don’t have one, consider starting one! ~ Lisa Stackpole
Read Proverbs 12:15-28
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25 (NIV)
Years ago I lived on the East Coast, and after being transferred to the Midwest, I sometimes returned to my former hometown for meetings at our headquarters. On one such trip, made years after I had moved, I visited a church I had attended while living in the area. As the service ended a woman approached me.
“You may not remember me,” she said. “I’m Anne Carson. My daughter Laura was in the Junior High Sunday School class you taught here. You really made a difference to her. She loved your teaching, and you were a great role model.” Stunned, I stuttered my thanks. (Thinking back, I’m sure I had the classic “Lucille Ball” look of amazement, with mouth gaping and eyes bulging!)
Leaving the sanctuary, I felt as though she had handed me a bouquet. Laura had been a delightful student. “What did I do that made such an impression?” I wondered. I walked on air the rest of the day.
Receiving the praise made me wonder: how many times had I missed the opportunity to encourage someone because I was too busy or feared embarrassment if the person didn’t remember me? Those are poor excuses not to bless someone! Many Proverbs exhort us to speak positively; the writer of Hebrews says “…let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV).
Since then I have taken more opportunities to thank others. I even wrote a letter to my sixth-grade teacher, a man long since retired. His responding phone call began, “Your letter is the type of thing educators live for.”
Today’s challenge: Give at least one person the gift of an encouraging word today.
~ Lisa Stackpole
Read Genesis 39:2-23
“…while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD…granted him favor…” Gen 39:20-21 (NIV)
“Bloom where you are planted” was a popular catchphrase back in the 1970’s. God’s people often find it necessary to “bloom where they are transplanted,” as they are plucked out of a fruitful life and deposited into harrowing circumstances.
Uprooting even a healthy plant can have a traumatic effect, as the organism struggles to cope with different soil, moisture, and possible damage to its root system. Some do not survive the change, or they become stunted or unfruitful.
Yet scripture tells of many people who thrived in new ways when faced with distressing changes. Unjustly accused and imprisoned, God granted Joseph favor in his new surroundings. Daniel, a youth of great promise, was taken from Jerusalem to serve the Babylonian king, and God blessed him. Ruth, widowed and childless at an early age, left her home and became part of the lineage of Christ–who could beat that! (See the books of Daniel and Ruth.) And Paul’s missionary journeys were cut short by imprisonment, during which he wrote some of his most encouraging epistles–Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.
In the past, I have experienced life changes that made me feel hurt and unproductive. As I look back carefully, though, I see that when I yielded to the Gardner’s hand, I produced fruit of a different kind. I just needed to bloom where I was transplanted.
Today’s Challenge: If you have recently undergone a “transplant,” keep your eyes open for new ways God can bless and use you. If you have not, come alongside a friend who has, to make their transition less traumatic.
~ Lisa Stackpole
God’s Timeless Word — His Timeless Forgiveness
Read 2 Samuel 11:1-27
God’s Word is as relevant now as it was when it was written.
In my decades of involvement with prison ministry, I have met people convicted of horrible crimes. Many of them struggle to believe they can be forgiven.
During one prison activity, I was approached by Frank, one of the prisoners, who was obviously concerned. “You can talk all you want about forgiveness,” he said, “but you don’t know what I’ve done.” Troubled, he told me about his past, including his involvement in a scheme that resulted in a man’s death. “How can I know God will forgive me?”
“Do you know the Bible’s account of David and Bathsheba, and her husband Uriah?” I asked.
He nodded and summarized the story. As he ended the recounting, as told in 2 Samuel 11, he paused, his face lighting up. “Oh, I get it. David arranged a murder, too,” he said. A tentative smile appeared on his face. “You know, I learned that story as a child, but it seemed like ancient history. I never connected it to my own life.”
Together we turned to Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance. As we finished reading it, Frank, like David, prayed for God’s mercy and forgiveness, and that he too could become “a man after God’s own heart.” (See Acts 13:22.) That day he became a new man in Christ.
Today’s Challenge: Is there a promise in the Bible that you feel isn’t relevant to this day and age? Ask the Lord to open your heart to hear what the Holy Spirit will tell you about it. While scripture is set in a specific time and culture, God’s promises are timeless and relevant to today.
~ Lisa Stackpole
Read Psalm 119: 97-104
As we feast on God’s Word, it sustains us through the day.
Years ago, a new job took me hundreds of miles from my friends and family. In those days before electronic communications, I would anxiously await the daily mail, hoping to get a welcome word from home.
One day before my birthday an envelope arrived showing the return address of a close friend. I tore it open, ready to feast on it as if it were a rich dessert. Inside was a signed birthday card, but no letter or personal note at all.
I sat with mixed emotions. While thankful for the card, I longed for some news from this dear friend—any word of encouragement or update to let me know how she was doing. I felt short-changed.
As I reflected on this, I realized that I needed to have that same strong desire to hear from my Heavenly Father as I did from my far-away earthly friends. God has given me His Word and yearns to have me feast on it with as much delight as I did those treasured letters from home. I will always find encouragement and knowledge there to help me grow in my relationship with my Best Friend.
Today’s Challenge: Before you spend any time on the phone or social media each day, spend some time in conversation with God through His Word and prayer.
~ Lisa Stackpole
The Upper Room has many wonderful uplifting stories to read!