Thursday, January 24, 2019

Our Secret Place

I receive daily emails from a ministry that sincerely seeks God for His daily thoughts. These were the words God gave them for us yesterday that really resonated within my heart: “When you feel vulnerable, make a concerted effort to do what it takes to be as safe as possible. However, you must not forget that abiding in Me is your ultimate security. I am your safe harbor in the midst of a storm. Come and hide yourself in Me, says the Lord." ~~ Psalm 27:5 “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

Like me, do you ever feel vulnerable – even just a little bit? My vulnerable times are when I come home late at night and have that initial eerie feeling of walking into my dark home; driving in torrential rain; waiting for a doctor’s diagnosis; when I’m speaking up in a meeting; or the times when I’m about to go on stage to speak for an event. And, what I do to be and feel as safe as possible, is to pull out the “big girl antidote” of praying for the sense of peace that comes from He Who is our peace.

God really is our safe place and when we abide in Him, He does bring us ultimate security. I love that line “Come and hide yourself in Me!” I was with my computer technician yesterday and while he was explaining new features he had added to my computer, I was explaining my 911 emergency number to him. It’s Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” When I need peace and a sense of safety, I quickly resort to my Secret Place – to the place and to the One who quickly restores my peace.

The shepherd boy, David, and later, King David, knew that peace from an early age. And so did I. I don’t know what’s going on in your world today, but I’m quite sure I know that there will be times when you feel vulnerable and afraid. But, rather than staying there, we quickly realize those feelings don’t come from God, and we, assertively demobilize them by placing them in God’s hands in the Secret Place and sweet peace comes. It’s not a mind-over-matter moment. It’s a God-over-matter moment.

At my church, we say “The peace of the Lord be with you” and in reply we say, “and with your Spirit”. That is – God’s peace be with you – spirit, soul and body! That’s the full meal deal God gives us – without measure when we go to His “secret place”.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Marks of a True Worshipper

The Marks of a True Worshipper
What prompts a young man to love God so much that he relentlessly serves Him and hangs out in His House? These two photos are of my grandson, Payton Wallace: the first one, at age 15, and the second (now age 18) was Sunday when he was praying for a businessman at church. The back of his shirt explains it: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6.

Payton has a true heart of worship. He is an extraordinary young man who could care less what someone thinks about his extravagant love for God. He would rather hang out at the church with his fellow musicians and crew members (the guys that set up the stage, props, and tear down) than anything else. When I hear about all the negatives in this world, I only wish that more focus would be placed on kids like this who are making a difference in their generation.

So what's the big deal about this kind of praising and worshipping God -- people of all ages raising their hands while singing songs of praise? Among the reasons are to show surrender, submission, humility, dependence on God, adoration, to give their all to God. I love the parallel of the universal act of someone surrendering by putting their arms and hands in the air. Another visual is a child reaching up for his father to carry him. Both examples apply to us as we raise our hands in surrender and ask for our Father to carry us..

The Bible says that God looks at the heart us. (1 Samuel 16:7). I honestly don't think He cares if we are standing in place, arms at our side, or raising our hands and can't stand still. He doesn't care if we are worshipping with hymns or choruses. But, He DOES care if we are TRULY worshipping Him. In defense of raising hands in worship, there are many places in the Bible that speak of it: Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 28:2, Psalm 134:2, Psalm 63:3-4, Psalm 88:9, Luke 24:50, and more.

God looks at OUR heart in worship, and most importantly, is that He has our hearts -- surrendered and tender toward the ONE Who gave His all for us. We will NEVER experience all that God has for us until we are able to TOTALLY surrender and love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, just as Jesus said in Mark 12:30 -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." True worship flows from our total love and devotion to God. We will never fully know our Lord until we are able to be a true worshipper that is not just for an hour, one day a week on Sunday. True worship is a lifestyle. Dear Lord, please help us show in our words and actions, our desire to love You and worship You with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Right to Abundant Life

The Right to Abundant Life
Today marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade legal decision, issued on January 22, 1973, that legalized abortion in the U.S. I wanted to take my thoughts a step further than the two March for Life videos that I posted last week of hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates, many of whom were high school and college students, marching to defend the rights of the unborn.

I am a woman (so clearly I am pro-women) and I’m a Christian who believes in life at conception to the grave, so clearly I am Pro-Life. I am so proud of those who marched for life last week. I was thrilled to see them carrying signs that read “Choose love, Choose life,” “I am the pro-life generation". God bless President Trump for announcing during the march that he will reject any efforts by pro-abortion leaders in Congress to weaken pro-life laws. He said, ” If they send any legislation to my desk that weakens the protection of human life, I will issue a veto and we have the support to uphold those vetoes.”

I don’t get on a soapbox when it comes to political issues, but when it comes to the sanctity of life, I can’t stay silent. In this case, silence is not golden! I’m not qualified to speak to the scientific debates and arguments going on between the pro-life and pro-abortion camps so I won’t attempt to go there. But I do believe I am qualified to provide what God says from His Holy Word that undergirds pro-life and right-to-life arguments.

1) I am pro-life because men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). God’s choice at the time of creation. One of the Ten Commandments is: “You shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13). Why? Remember, God has made man in His image. Abortion is the calculated taking of a life created in God’s image.

2) I am pro-life vs. pro-choice because God is the author and giver of life. "You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6) "Life comes from God; God is for life — that is, God is “pro”-life.

3) I am pro-life because the alternative is death. "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) The abortion industry is a culture of death. The sanctity of life movement is a culture of life. What a contrast!
• God says, “Choose life!” That is God's "choice" — life!
• Death is an enemy! Post-abortion counseling reveals that many women have been traumatized by the later realization that by having an abortion they have opted for death rather than life for their unborn babies.

4) I am pro-life because there is abundant evidence in the Bible that God looks upon unborn children in the womb as human persons, with human emotions. "At that time Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice, he exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped FOR JOY. (Luke 1:39-44). John
the Baptist, while still in his mother’s womb, “leaped for joy” as Mary, pregnant with Jesus, approached.

5) I am pro-life because every child in the womb has the potential for being used by God to declare His love and to serve Him. "The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5) God called Jeremiah to his future ministry as a prophet before he was born.

6) I am pro-life because children are a God-given blessing, a source of happiness, a reward and a heritage from God. “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from Him. (Psalm 127:3-5)

Two naive, young and completely unskilled in parenting, my husband and myself, started our family at ages 18 and 19. I continually thank God for my two biological children and my two children they married, and my seven grandchildren. I pray for them all daily. Indeed, “The fruit of the womb is God’s reward” (Psalm 127:3). They are a heritage from God, a reward from Him, a God-given source of blessing and happiness. How could anyone think anything otherwise?

Monday, January 21, 2019

A True Difference Maker -- Happy MLK Day!

Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. On January 20, 1986, President Ronald Reagan approved the creation of this national holiday, held the 3rd Monday in January of each year. What a price MLK paid for this day of honor.

He lived an extraordinary life. At 33, he was pressing for civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his "I Have a Dream" speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today. I'm one of those he inspired. Those years were some of my first awareness of the atrocities of racial discrimination and the civil rights riots that made us feel like our country was falling apart. It really was. For the love of God, how could this happen to "one nation UNDER GOD"?

Today we honor this passionate, bold and courageous "Baptist minister" who gave his life to change our world. I remember his words just before his assassination in 1968: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." MLK was in good company with these words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies! Bless them that curse you! Do good to them that hate you! Pray for them who spitefully use you, and persecute you!” That sounds preposterous, doesn't it? How could we possibly love someone that hurt us or rejected us or cursed us? How absolutely IMPOSSIBLE these words seem to be! Only through the supernatural power of LOVE -- God's love -- can it be possible.

He gave up his life so that those who had been ostracized and marginalized, simply because of the color of their skin, could experience abundant life. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? John 10:10 says “And Jesus came and gave His life so that we could have abundant life.” MLK was in good company, wasn’t he?

MLK fought against injustice without violence. He overcame evil through the power of love. He followed the example of Jesus, who chose to forgive his persecutors even as they were killing him. That’s our calling as followers of Jesus. Unfairness and injustice may be part of the human condition, but when we don't feed into it, we are responding in the love of God.

Relentless passion in pursuit of a dream is what men AND women like MLK are made of . . . and look what one life did to change HIS world. To think and speak on behalf of others is noteworthy, to serve and act on behalf of others is heroic, but what do we call someone who gave his words, actions and life on behalf of others? Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the few people in history who has so profoundly changed the world in such a short time. His visions and actions for social unity, racial brotherhood, true peace, and social welfare were carefully thought out and acted upon. He fought the good fight and kept the faith.

Lord, help us to love relentlessly and pursue the dreams you would have for us to invest our lives in -- to make this world a better place for just having been here. Thank you, Martin Luther King, for your example of "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Sunday, January 20, 2019

My Purpose Filled Life Comes Without a Drill Sergeant

I want to start off by saying I know God has always been with me -- even before my conception. Cheers to my mom and dad’s hardcore belief in life. I was an unexpected baby (not to God, but to mom and dad). It had been 12 years since their last child, but mom was in a trainwreck that upset her “apple cart”, rather, her birthing cart. All the biological factors came together and whoa-la, here came Donna Sue! At first, I wasn’t a welcomed surprise. Mom was older and done with being a baby manufacturer, but God wasn’t done and if she were alive, she’d tell you I was her blessing. We were besties, inseparable, and eventually, I became her caregiver.

Once mom grasped the notion that I was a blessing and not a curse, she loved me with all her heart. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur at birth and she prayed for my healing to live. Obviously her prayers were answered and obviously, God purposely planned my existence. He created a unique path for my life. He created a unique path for your life, too -- even before your conception. In Jeremiah 1:5, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." If you are reading this blog, you are most likely a believer and lover of God and His Word, too. If you’re not, I pray this is the day you join me on the most remarkable journey of sweet assurance of OUR manufacturer and His purpose for our lives.

I wish I could say since I became a Christian at 8-years-old that I had completely understood God’s love for me. I wish I had always been on fire for Him and tight with Him, but, rather than “I wish I hads”, I am learning that's just not His requirements. Sometimes we see Him as a Drill Sergeant who requires a certain way to stand, act, dress, speak and "Oh, YES SIR! I promise to seek You more, read my Bible more. I'll get more involved. I'll reach out to others more!" But with all the ups and downs of life, those promises get a little watered-down. After all, we are just human, right? But what if it was for a different reason altogether?

What if the whole time we were trying so hard to draw into God, we were going about it the wrong way? We were making it a routine, a drill, a rigid, religious exercise that once we completed the tasks, we had completed our requirements, because, of course, that’s what a good Christian does…..right? But then one day, I realized God wasn’t my drill sergeant yelling at me to “Get up! Get going! Give me 10 (push-ups)!” I realized He shows up in the softness of a gentle breeze, or that big hug from a fellow believer or a worship song, or scripture that pops off the thin page of my Bible that was “right on” and what I needed for that day. That has been the ebb and flow that eventually got me to this day and time that pulled me into blogging and sharing my faith.

Now I am using the gifts HE has given me to glorify Him. I am able to understand what He is teaching me even more. I am confident when He says "yes" OR "no" to me because I know He has my best interests at heart. Now, out of my sweet relationship with the One Who loves me most, I want to serve Him. I want to read my Bible to find out more about Him and now read it in a way that sticks with me, sinks into my heart and sets me on my path and it may even be the catalyst for my next blog.

My relationship with Jesus has become radically different. It’s a built-in, 24-hour open-shop with Him. I just love HIm so much, I truly want, with all my heart to please Him out of a thankful heart. My thought life hinges on pleasing Him. “Forgive me, Lord, for thinking that!” “Thanks, God, for that advice.” It was sitting right there in front of me just waiting for me to discover the path that was made for me and embracing it. If you find yourself in a similar situation of wanting more from your relationship with God, don’t give up. You'll get there because He's always right there with you, for you and waiting for you. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." Revelation 3:20

Saturday, January 19, 2019

What Does Your Branding Say About You?

We often hear about branding and rebranding. It’s that look, symbol, label, character, attitude, distinctive design that sets a particular product, company and even a person apart from the rest.

As we were driving down a Texas highway, my granddaughter and I saw this truck with this message on it. “We could wreck the world. Jesus Saves.” Of course, it was a seize-the-moment photo inspiration! I'll admit -- I was puzzled about that branding. After some online research, I found that Billy Nabors Demolition has over 50 years experience in commercial and residential demolition, wrecking and dismantling and is the Dallas area's leading demolition expert. I found this article from "Dallas Magazine": "God's Wrecking Crew" "Some people wear their feelings on their sleeves. Billy Nabors wears his on 15 trucks, each emblazoned with an unforgettable slogan: "We could wreck the world -- Jesus saves." Nabors is really in the business of eyesore removal. He knows his slogan helps people remember him. "It’s an eye-catcher," Nabors says. "It’s not everybody who’s got one of these." The slogans also serve as reminders to Nabors’ drivers, who don"t need a 1-800 number to help them drive friendly. "There’s no place to hide in one of those." Nabors says "I’ve got a 30-foot billboard on every one of them." "Ain’t many people advertise for the Lord," Nabors says. "Most people advertise for the devil."

We sure can't knock success -- Billy found a niche market that gets folks looking his way if they need demolition and looking his way to point them to Jesus. I'd say Billy found a winning combination.

We should be taking a fresh look at our personal branding a lot more often and a lot more seriously. Jesus branding was “He went about doing good and healing everyone” Acts 10:38. What does OUR branding say about us? Is our branding, and the way we live, good advertising for God, too? Just think about it. We represent Jesus in the world. We are a face of Christianity. Shouldn't we be living our lives in a way that exhibits the fruit of His Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) and letting our billboards and brands be lit up with His light?

If we live out loud in His light and spotlighting Him, then just maybe folks will want to buy our products and our message and even be drawn to His LIGHT because of what they see in our brand!

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16.

Friday, January 18, 2019

I Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
You know those words: “I should have done that but", “I would have been been that but" or “I could have gone there but…..” Should -- Would -- Could are words I’ve determined to get out of my vocabulary this year because they represent the past and that past is behind me. Or they represent hesitation to move forward.

I posted that I chose the word “contentment” this year as my word of the year to focus on and maintain. But yesterday a new thought occurred to me: What word am I not going to choose this year? I’m going to take the “shoulds” off the table because I want to wake up each morning and have a true purpose in this new day. I want to take on projects and activities and be able to say “yes” to opportunities that open the door to new friendships and new adventures. That’s why I’m volunteering at Scottish Rite Hospital for Children where I meet precious children, families, co-volunteers, and medical personnel. In fact, I met a co-volunteer yesterday that inspired me with her energy and zeal. I could be saying, I shoulda volunteered, but instead, I’m saying “I’m sure glad I did.”

I’ve also signed up for a couple of “field trips” to historical places to visit here in the Dallas area. I remember a friend of mine coming to Dallas last year with a group and her describing the interesting places that I had never visited in my city and I thought -- “I should have gone to those places by now!” No more “shoulds”. I don’t know anyone going on these upcoming field trips, but I’m going to get out and about and meet new friends and make the most out of it.

I said “Yes” to being on an advisory group at my church. Instead of being a “shrinking violet” I’m going to use my skills and talents to hopefully benefit this group with my knowledge and training.

When we take the ‘shoulds’ off the table, we find out why we’re really waking up in the morning with a true purpose and intent on forgetting the past and making the most of each new day. Instead of saying I should do this. I should do that. I shouldn’t feel this way, I'm going to make statements like “I will do this. I will do that. I will not have those feelings.”

I thought “What can replace the ‘shoulds’ in my life?” It came to me that gratitude is what belongs in my heart and on my lips. For example, I took a nap the other day and when I woke up I thought “I should have finished inputting those records.” Then I came to myself and whispered, “Thank you, God, for that nap gift. I must have really needed it.” I got up and finished my work.

‘Should, would, could in my life are trickster and fibber words. I have decided that I won’t be speaking their names this year. Instead, I’m choosing, “I will, I can, I am”. I choose to live with no regrets because there isn’t a thing we can do about the past. We can lament a missed opportunity for years that can weigh down our hearts like a steel anchor. “If I had only…” has nothing to do with talent; it is simply the result of courage or procrastination.”

Those people – the shoulda coulda woulda folks – are not you and me. We are destined to leave an indelible mark on the world, as long as we have the will to make it happen. We’ll never know what we are truly capable of until we unleash our passion and give ourselves permission to go, do, be creators. I don’t know about you, but when I get to the end, I hope I’ll have more battle scars and fewer regrets. May we seize the day and never, never, ever be a shoulda, coulda, woulda.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tenderize My Heart, Lord

While writing in my journal, I wrote: "Lord, tenderize my heart for others." Tenderize? Where did that come from? Suddenly, I went "nostalgic" and saw my mom holding a meat tenderizer hammer beating the tar out of a piece of meat. She was beating it to make the meat more tender. And, of course, that went along with chicken fried steak and cream gravy. Yum! And, chicken fried chicken! Lord, have mercy! How have we lasted so long since we grew up eating all that fried food? Oops! I took a rabbit trail!

Back to "Lord, tenderize my heart for others." I'm sure it came from my earlier newsfeed scrolling when I saw many of my friends having a really tough start to this new year -- illnesses, automobile and falling accidents. Others were raising funds for their family members who were in desperate need of finances to help cover their medical expenses and another gal was raising support for surgery for her dog. Each one of those needs God sees and isn't surprised at all by the calamities and distresses, but His heart is tenderized. Shouldn't mine be, too? Shouldn't we be touched by those around us who are in pain because of something gone wrong in their lives? Isn't that what Jesus meant when He said: "Love your neighbor as you love yourselves". How can I love my neighbor if I'm not loving myself? And if I'm loving myself, shouldn't I be loving others to help relieve their pains as I endeavor to relieve my own. And, demonstrating God's love to those we call family and friends is often the easiest to respond to their needs. But what about those we don't know and those who aren't the easiest to even consider wanting to love them in any way?

A friend commented on my "Time Maker; Time Waster" post: "My biggest time waster is Facebook! A bad habit I need to break" My comment back to her was "Instead of it being a time waster, make it a time maker by praying for those who need prayer there and encouraging those who need encouragement. That way, you are making a difference in their lives and yours!" That option is having a tenderized heart.

Jesus was the ULTIMATE example of a tenderized heart. He loved by sacrificing his life. His death on the cross made atonement for sin which humanity couldn’t make. Its power brings about forgiveness of sins and allows humans to have a personal relationship with God: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). My weak and flaw-filled attempts to love as He loves seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb. But, doing my best to follow His "love" lead, is a good start.

Oh, my pen was in the hand of God yesterday morning as I wrote those words. He was nudging me, awakening me to "beat the tar out of the enemy" with a love hammer. And, as the message became crystal clear, I asked Him again: "Tenderize my heart, Lord. Help me to feel as you feel, love as you love, see as You see, speak as You speak. Come and tenderize my heart, Lord. Let me see You as You are and as You want me to be."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Who Said I'm Not a Dog Lover?

Five years ago, Payton, my then 13-year-old grandson, was quite the entrepreneur repairing and selling cell phones. He earned enough money to purchase his Australian Shepherd pedigreed puppy that came with a pretty hefty price tag! They lived in the Seattle area and had to drive a couple of hours north to see and purchase him, but left him until he was old enough to be weaned from his mama. What a twosome they were!

I was a dog-liker, not a dog-lover. I lived in Tulsa and was visiting them. When I saw "Buddy" for the first time, Payton had sprayed his Papa’s (my husband’s) favorite cologne on him to be sure I was attracted to the little guy. I was. It probably didn’t take the cologne, but it sure made me want to cuddle him even more.

Fast forward five years this month, and these two “buddies” have grown up! And, so have I. Now, my visits to the Wallace’s include Buddy meeting me at the door with tail wagging and running to the back door – his indicator for me to pitch the tennis ball to him. He loves it. And, I love him! Did you catch that? I became a dog lover! What’s that about?

We are creatures of habits when we say “I’ll never have a dog or cat or we’ll remark “I’ll never eat that food or go to that place, or sit through that concert, etc., but then the habits get tossed out the window when a “shift” takes place in our thinking. Suddenly new likes and habits are acquired. Maybe you can think of something that you’d never do and you’re smiling as you read this post, because you did it and love it. The fact is life is about CHANGE.

Thank God. He never changes. He is the one constant we can assure ourselves of daily. "I am the Lord, and I do not change.” Malachi 3:6. “He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13: 8.

I love hearing stories of people who said, “I’ll never be able to give up smoking” and with grit and determination, today, they are literally “smoke-free”! And stories of an abused woman who thought she would never have a new life, and through Christ’s mercy and her tenacity, is now an overcomer.

We may waiver in our “I will never……” but God won’t. Maybe today’s a good day to say “I’ll never say never and I’ll be open to any change that makes me love greater and open up myself to whatever possibilities that God has in store for me." May we awaken to the assurance that He KNOWS ALL and if we’ll adapt to His ways, we’ll come to appreciate what we didn’t like before and even fall in love with them. Maybe part of our future includes changes that will cause us to enjoy the ride a little more! I’m throwing in the towel and opening up my mind to possibilities! How about you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Time Wasters and Time Makers

I had an aha moment when I read this scripture: "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7.

I don’t watch the news, but my Facebook newsfeed keeps me updated on the highlights of “wicked schemes” of people and it moves me to make part of my daily devotion time to earnestly pray for our country. Whatever side we may be on, we should diligently pray for God's wisdom to our president, Congress, and military leaders. They need our prayers even if they are not the candidates we voted for and even if we don’t like what they say and do. Interceding for those in authority is not an option. It is a biblical command: “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Here’s the good news. God’s perfect judgment WILL put things right! If we can believe in a God Who is going to execute judgment with perfect justice, then we can leave it in His sovereign hands and do what Jesus told us to do: “Love your enemies”! Whew! That’s the test. It’s a TIME WASTER to complain and moan the state of the world when we know the end of the Book’s WINNING outcome. So many of the world’s problems would be solved if people believed in the fact that there is a God Who judges justly and we can trust Him to put things right in the end.

Why, then, should we be worrying and fretting about anything?” The older I get, the more I realize the most precious time in life is when I spend it with the people I love the most. I love spending time with my family, my extended family, my church family, and dear friends. And, I like to think they like to spend time with me. That is the TIME MAKERS. Yet even more amazing to me is that God desires to spend time with me – especially when I’m in a “time maker” mode with Him and delighting in Him! In fact, He wants to spend time with you and me so much that He paid a hefty debt He didn't owe in order to get it. He sent Jesus to remove every barrier, tear down every wall and unlock every door so we could have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, He gave us His Word so we could hear from Him consistently.

God gives us unrestricted access to Him, anywhere and anytime. God wants us to get to know Him better so we can love Him fully, hear Him clearly and experience His guidance. This comes by spending quality time with Him instead of the news or newsfeed.

So today -- instead of wasting our time on fruitless thoughts and bemoaning the troubles in our world, let’s set aside time to spend with the One who is above all time and He sure makes our time beautiful. It will be time well spent.

Monday, January 14, 2019

What Would the Walls of Your Home Say About You?

I sit here at my dear friends’ kitchen counter in the wee hours of the morning working on my post for this day. There are two little kitchen lamps dimly shining so mostly darkness surrounds me. Then I look across to the other side of the kitchen and there is the lighted manger scene glowing that I hadn’t noticed before in the daylight. I’m reminded of Emmanuel – God with us. Indeed, He is here in this beautiful home where the welcome mat is always out for me. My dear friends of so many years give me the royal treatment. It was especially meaningful this time as their Christmas decorations are still up. More than the lit Christmas tree and manger scene is the presence and light of Christ who lives in this home.

If these walls here could speak, I know they’d tell you “Love in any language fluently spoken here”! It is evident by the photos of their precious family and their two adorable grandchildren. Both Mick and Sheila beam with joy telling me how 3-year old Benjamin soothes his little 1-year-old sister when she’s crying with “It’ll be okay, Baby Sister!”.

Most importantly is the welcome mat is always out for God and His presence here. Every room in this home has its own personality and its own story to tell -- from Sheila’s mom’s magnificent paintings and artwork to the crosses, spiritual icons, statues, Bibles, devotion books, Christian magazines, scripture photos, and each room is named after a saint. The culture here is the free flow of conversation about the goodness of God and His love for us. No matter where the conversation starts – it will always include a gratitude word or blessing or encouragement in it. We just can’t carry on a conversation without it.

They humored me Saturday night as we watched the Dallas Cowboys game together – well, Mick and I watched the game as Sheila was with us but going through her 40+ years of a tub full of collected holy and scripture cards, sorting them to take to the women in the jail where she and Mick minister every Friday. At half time, we humored ourselves when, quite spontaneously, Mick got us going with Bible charades as he acted out Peter. The “hanging upside down on the cross” gave it away. When I acted out Mary Magdalene washing Jesus feet with her hair and crying, Sheila totally went to the place of remembrance of that meaningful and touching Bible scene and teared up as she said, “Ohhhh, it’s Mary!”

In this home and holding His Bible open, you’ll hear Mick remark, “Listen to this.....” as he quotes scripture and provides us with an enlightening explanation of the words. You’ll see Sheila’s face light up and hear her compassionate heart as she talks about the women who she witnesses to weekly in the jail or about the women that come to her home Bible studies. Truly this home is built on solid rock.

This same day while I was spending time with my 96-year-old Mom-in-love, who, by the way, is doing remarkably well – with just a few aches and pains in her legs, Sheila came over to visit her. It was the sweetest time and Mom beamed like a teenager as she nostalgically told her about how she and dad met and married six weeks later – a marriage that lasted 52 years before dad passed away. If the walls of Mom’s room could speak, they would tell you she is so loved and cared for by her daughter who is her loving and devoted caregiver. Mom’s vibrancy is proof of that loving care. The walls of this room are covered with family photos and scriptures and there's her Bible on her nightstand. It is evident who she is by what surrounds her.

Yesterday I spoke about friends who are for a season and those who are for a lifetime. Add to the list Sheila and Mick who live out the sanctity of marriage, friendship, loving others in word and deed. Their home is proof. Their lives are proof. The evidence is in the many lives that have been affected by their love, support and encouragement. Count me in on that one. Their home is evidence of WHO they are and WHOSE they are. Mom's little room expresses that, too.

What would the walls of your home say about you?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Beauty Redefined

I sat behind this lovely woman at church for over 16 years. Initially, it was her thick, natural blonde, bouncy, and perfectly coiffed hair that always drew my attention. Maybe there was some unintentional longing for hair like that. It’s Friday night in Tulsa and I sit across the table from this smiling, radiant, beautiful woman with an oh-so-cute hat covering her head and an equally accessorized and matching outfit. She is adorable and she is rocking her new exterior. I realize, more than ever, this extraordinary woman is not defined by her hair or the lack of it. She is defined by the courage, faith, resilience, determination, confidence and the absolute bulldog tenacity to rock whatever challenge she faces. Like little David, the shepherd boy, who “rocked” the giant, she is “rocking” cancer. Slaying cancer!

Trina’s journey of faith began way further back than a cancer diagnosis. We were drawn together many years ago and we’ve been encouragers to each other through many of our ups and downs. It’s been one of those “God” connections when we are blessed with some friends who are for a season and then there are others who are lifers! What everyone sees on the outside – her strength and relentless will to conquer – comes from what is on the inside of her. Oh, that life was a bowl full of cherries, butterfly kisses, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Wouldn’t that be divine? But it most certainly isn’t!

You see, none of us are immune to challenges and concerns and roller coaster rides that make us want to throw up! God, in His divine sovereignty, doesn’t want us to suffer, but, from personal experience, I assure you I am who I am today from the adversities that I’ve faced that transformed my character from a shy, wimpy, lacking confidence gal to a confident, peace-filled, and strong woman. And, with that confidence, I can share my experiences to help those around me get through theirs. I am thrilled to share my earned wisdom with others that are facing some really tough times.

If we’re children of God, He has a plan for all those roller coaster rides. Most of the time, we don’t see the big picture. We only see what’s right in front of us. Every challenge we face and every test we have to take, God is preparing us for what’s ahead. One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There is no doubt that God’s plans include rabbit trails, off-road terrain, rugged mountains, and dark valleys for different reasons. It's a head-scratcher, for sure! But, be comforted, because He is the God of the hills and valleys and He is always there with us.

Making it through rocky places and seasons gives us the ability to comfort others because we’ve been there, done that, and many of us have the t-shirt to prove it. Trina has a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She is already encouraging her with what she’s learned and, no doubt, she will be passing along her story to others to assure them, with God, we make it through – not always unscathed, and even smelling a little bit like smoke, but certainly, with a riveting and epic story of God’s amazing grace.

Thank You, Father, for never leaving or forsaking us. Help us to enjoy the hilltop blessings AND handle the rocky places and valley challenges knowing that You are with us regardless of the terrain. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

What Are YOU Pointing At?

My oldest grandson was a late talker, so he pointed. Not that he couldn’t. He just wouldn’t. He preferred to point and make cute little "uh uh” sounds. And, you’d better believe we were on point to respond to his “uh uh’s” and his point. We were those kinds of grandparents who doted on our firstborn grandchild. We adored responding to his ways of identifying what he wanted.

The POINT is this: our Heavenly Father is waiting for us to point to that dream, vision, or desire and more than any earthly father who wants to bless His kids, God wants to bless those Who He calls His own, His masterpieces, and His prized possessions. He wants to bless us and give us the desires of our heart.

Psalm 37:4 says "Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart." That's the crux of the matter. When we, as God's kids, delight in Him, His desire is to pour out blessings on us. It’s just like an earthly father whose child is jumping up in his lap and hugging him, embracing him, honoring him and bringing him good pleasure. That father can’t help himself. He will do everything in his power to give his child what he desires (if it’s good for him/her).

I love the idea of God giving me the desires of my heart, but that promise has a condition. I must ask myself, "Am I delighting myself in Him or not?" I found two Bible verses that explain "delighting in the Lord". “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart”. Psalm 40:8 and "For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law." Romans 7:22

And, this Luke 10:27 best explains it. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." When we delight in Him and give Him that much love, He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts.

Taking "pointing" a step further past our own desires and wants is pointing others to Jesus. The heart of our Christian life is coming out of hiding and pointing others to Jesus. John the Baptist pointed. He said, “Behold the Lamb of God” to the crowd when Jesus was coming toward them. Andrew pointed His brother, Peter, to Jesus. Hopefully, you are pointing your children and grandchildren toward Jesus by the way you love and care for them, by the way they hear you praying for them and by taking them to church. Maybe you are listening to a teenager who needs a listening ear and guiding voice and you point him to Jesus. Maybe you are demonstrating God’s love and pointing a neighbor to Him.

So what and Who are we pointing at? Maybe we need to amp up our pointing skills so that we continue to point our lives to the One Who points at us daily with His love, His favor, His grace, and His mercy. May we become known as ambassadors for Christ Who point the way for others to see Him!

Friday, January 11, 2019

I’ve Learned My Lessons About Look Backs

It’s been several weeks since I was able to make my trek back to Tulsa and I’ve missed everything and everyone there, especially Mom and my besties! I’m glad I’m heading there today, even in the rain AND cold!

When I moved to Frisco from Tulsa in 2016, I promised God I wouldn’t look back and wish I were still there. Famous last words. I'm glad God didn’t turn me into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife when she looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah! I’ll admit I’ve missed my friends and family and familiar places. I haven’t wished to move back, but I have looked back on the best parts of living there. Selective thinking and remembering. Isn’t it funny how, when we’re missing something or someone, we don’t think about the negatives associated with them? And there were plenty. There were some tough and crazy times and my precious husband became fatally ill, but I've locked up the vault on those memories and throwing away the key!

Here’s the deal. As long as we keep looking backward, we’re not making progress going forward. In Luke 9:62, Jesus told the disciple “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Yikes! Thanks, God, for the reminder! I want to be fit for your Kingdom!

Why is it that we have such a longing to look back? God knows we are prone to backward glances and thinking about our mistakes and failures along with our successes and victories. We can learn from those experiences, but as long as we’re looking back, we can’t move forward. Living in those memories keeps us looking in the rear view mirror instead of looking ahead to where we're going.

It’s time to “Let it Go” (Hark! Do I hear Elsa from "Frozen" belting out her song?) I mean “Let go of the past – we can’t change it so it’s time to move forward. The past is the past and, yes, though we have fond memories of precious loved ones and times we hold near and dear to our hearts, but I’m sure we all have past experiences, relationships, and memories that we’re all ready to bury and forget about. Literally, it’s a new day. We can do nothing about our past, but we can do everything about our today and tomorrow, especially when it comes to thanking God for His many blessings and living in those blessings TODAY!

So I’ll give hugs and warm embraces to my dear ones AND even visit some of my favorite places while I’m there. But, God knows my heart and how grateful I am for precious new friends, new places, new faces, and new opportunities to love THIS place! I won’t be looking back, but looking forward with great expectation to what today and tomorrow holds. One thing’s for sure. God holds me and he holds my hand in THIS place!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Who is Trevor Lawrence, Anyway?

My son texted me on Tuesday: “Good morning! I love you! Wow, did Alabama get stomped!” My reply, without looking at the score of the Clemson/Alabama championship game, was “They sure did. I’m sure they were humbled.” Actually, I didn't see the game. Once Oklahoma was out, so was I.

But, subsequently I did check out the score, and yes, Clemson pulled off a big upset for #1 Alabama. Apparently, Clemson’s quarterback was the star of the show because he was named MVP. Trevor Lawrence, the 19-year-old freshman, has already received accolades for his talents and ESPN said that “the legend of Trevor Lawrence has only begun.”

I enjoy following Dr. Jim Denison’s review of daily news and this is what he said, “The best part of the story isn’t the part that’s making headlines today. When Lawrence was named Clemson’s starting quarterback last September, reporters asked how he stays so calm during games. “That’s just always my personality,” he explained. “Football’s important to me, but it’s not my life. It’s not the biggest thing in my life. I would say my faith is.” He added: “I put my identity in what Christ says, who He thinks I am and who I know that He says I am.” “Share a nanosecond of celebration!” says Dr. Denison.

I love stories like that – especially the ones when God is given the credit. You know, those “But, God…..” stories. Some people believe God set the world in motion, and then sat back in His holy recliner just to watch it spin without intervening in the lives of men. There many "But God..." stories in the Bible:
Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it for good….”
Acts 2:24, “Jesus was put to death, BUT GOD raised him from the dead.”
Romans 5:8, “We were sinners, BUT GOD demonstrates His love for us that while we were yet sinners, He died for us"

How awesome! God was involved in the lives of men back then and He is still involved now, intervening, guiding, and restoring. I heard these one-liners from men and women this last year:
"I thought my family would never change, but God…"
"My life was spiraling out of control, but God…"
"I thought I'd messed everything up, but God…"
“I was homeless and couldn’t take care of my family, but God….”
“I was diagnosed with cancer, but God….”
“I was abused and tormented, but God….”
“I was in prison with no hope, but God….”
“I couldn’t find a job, but God….”
Each one of those “But, God” stories have a happy ending AND new beginning. "But God" is the moment when God intervenes. Life is going one way and things seem hopeless and then all of a sudden a holy God steps in and everything changes.

What is your “But God....” story? No matter where you are right now or what you've been through, if you'll let God in, He'll bring complete restoration to your life. I know because He did it for me. God loves you so much and has a good plan for your life. Even if you are in the middle of a disaster right now, don't give up hope. Trust Him. Your "BUT GOD" story is on its way!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Was Fed Up

"Fed Up” = has had enough of a situation; annoyed with a state of affairs that has persisted for a long time.

A year ago this January, a crown was placed on my back fractured tooth. I was hounded for years by my dentists to get that crown. The only problem I was having were those annoying dentists that kept prodding me to get it done. I gave in but as soon as the temporary crown was placed, that tooth started giving me grief that intensified when the permanent crown was on. I had headaches, and the pain increased when food or water was near that tooth. My dentist assured me within six months the pain would be gone. It wasn’t. She sent me to a specialist and he recommended a root canal or remove the tooth. I put up with it another six months. One year later, I was FED UP with the pain. Two weeks ago, hesitantly, because she didn't want to pull a good tooth (it wasn't good to me), she pulled it. There is a space back there but no more tooth pain and no more headaches! Why did I wait so long? One year of misery instead of taking action sooner than later?

Jesus told the story of the prodigal son who left home with his inheritance, squandered it all on a tawdry lifestyle, and ended up eating in the pig pen. Everything he needed was at his father’s home but he settled for the pain and misery until he got FED UP and went home. "My father’s servants have it so much better than this! I’ll go back and ask to be one of his servants!” Check out the love of the father and his response: “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. The father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s feast and celebrate’” (Luke 15:20-23). All the joy of his father’s love awaited him. He needed to get FED UP enough to go home to him.

Maybe you're FED UP with something in your life. Maybe a job where you're mistreated and overlooked You're ready to find a job where you are esteemed and valued. Maybe you're FED UP with the vices that you thought you had to have to make it through another day. You're ready to seek help from a Christian counselor or pastor. Most of all, if you are FED UP with looking in all the wrong places for hope and love and ready to "go back home", like the prodigal son, to His Father. No matter what we’ve done, when we come home to God, He wraps us in His love. He gives us His best and says, “All is forgiven! Let’s have a feast! My child has returned to me.”

Maybe you’re FED UP today. God sees you. He knows and cares about you. What a comfort to hear those words and to know we don’t have to live without hope any longer. Rather than being FED UP, it’s time to be FILLED UP with God's love, faith, hope, joy, peace, and all the full-meal-deal promises of His Word. Getting fed up is good because it means we go home to a celebration. And, like my freedom from constant tooth pain I let go way too long, you will know freedom from the pain of hopelessness, loneliness, sadness, fear, and regret. When you get fed up and make the change, you'll be celebrated and rejoiced over and your mourning will be turned into dancing.

Psalm 34:19: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

When We Allow God to Fill in the Blanks

One of my friends recently posted that she was well underway with filling in the blanks on her 2019 calendar. She must accomplish this feat because she has three children and with getting them to school and to their music and voice lessons, sports practices and games, as well as her own responsibilities as a wife, businesswoman, and mother, it is essential. I recall those times with my children and though I'm distant from those schedules now, I know them when I’m caring for my grandsons in Austin. Their mother is so on-point for me. She provides me with their full-of-activities calendars and she includes phone numbers of teachers, coaches, and friends that I can call if something’s just not right.

I'm thankful for my iPhone calendar that I've learned to make an entry for important dates and appointments. Then there are blanks to be filled in on forms. Who really enjoys going to a medical appointment and having to fill in all those questions? We like it when we've completed forms, outlines, and calendars. It feels so good once all those blanks are filled in. All the gaps closed. All the details disclosed. And all the why questions answered to our satisfaction.

But that’s not the way life is. Some questions should be blank. They just don't have a right or wrong answer. That’s the way God wants it. Our all-knowing God not only allows us to NOT know all the answers but He actually designed life to be that way.

Without blanks in our lives, we would have no room for Him to enter in and write His answers. For Him to become the WAY when there is no way. For Him to be the TRUTH when lies are consuming our thoughts. For Him to be the LIFE He’s designed for us to have on the other side of our insistence to control our stories and be the author of them. Our God is not forgetful. He doesn't make mistakes. He allows spaces and blank places. He leaves room for providential circumstances and surprises and His perfect plan to be working in our lives. If we had all the blanks filled in, we would explain away God’s part in our story. God doesn’t want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. He wants us to make room for His additions to our story.

Remember just a few days ago when we heard the “No room” part of the Christmas Story? God was told, “There is no room,” and He turned an ordinary stable into an extraordinary place of worship. "No room” became a message for us to take to heart daily. When there is “No room” for God’s intervention, then we fill our rooms and spaces with stuff. But when we allow Him to step in, He creates “moments of amazing grace”, divine interventions and makes circumstances be certain God-winks.

Are the blanks and unanswered questions of your life providing space for God, the way-maker, the chain-breaker, pain-taker, the soul-saver, sin-forgiver, hope-giver Who provide the answers?

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your steps (will fill in the blanks).”

Monday, January 7, 2019

My Word for 2019

I’ve heard several people speak about the word they've chosen in making faith declarations for this new year Following suit, I selected my word and I really do intend to embrace it this year. My word is “content”.

I watch my children’s pets and all those critters seem to be so content. Just feed them, give them a little rub around their ears or tummies and they’ll love you for a lifetime. Being content isn’t so easy for us humans. Even St. Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11). He LEARNED to be content. That sure gives me hope and it also gives me the desire to get in on the “learning curve” of contentment. So if Paul says he “learned” to be content (from a Roman prison cell) then, apparently, contentment isn’t naturally born inside us but it’s something we have to practice and be sure it’s our “condition” -- whatever circumstance we are in.

I’ve practiced and acquired a good measure of contentment. Once the word was foreign to me. I was so used to striving, worrying and being stress-filled that I lived in anxiety and fear. Then I started understanding the beauty of contentment and now, more than ever, I want my feet planted on “contentment” ground, and my eyes open to what’s around me. I want to understand more of the mystery of contentment.

When I look at the definition of contentment I can tell being content means being satisfied with what we have and who we are. It’s not settling or passivity; it’s about life and growth. It is these words from the Psalmist: “I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:2). These words are beautiful to me because they are about closeness that comes from love and not from want. Paul learned to be content in all conditions. It didn’t come naturally to him, and it wasn’t an instantaneous transformation. It is a process, something that we learn from walking with God each day. Key to this process is understanding that everything, major and minor, is under God’s sovereignty. He uses all our circumstances to train us in godliness if we submit to Him and trust Him. Our attitude in trials and our deliberate submission to His sovereignty in the trial is crucial. This is what I long for between me and God.

In practical terms, this is what “contentment” means to me:
✔️It's being thankful I woke up and God started me on my way.
✔️It's nestling down in my comfy chair, reading the post I wrote yesterday with a fresh perspective, editing where needed, and then hitting the “Share” button, while praying God guides eyes to fall on it by those who need those words the most.
✔️ It’s writing a quick, simple, thanksgiving entry into my journal every morning about the day before.
✔️It’s my morning “love” text messages that I send to my four children (my two and their spouses) and know they heard a positive word from their mama at the start of their day.
✔️It's intentionally spending time with people who are encouraging to me and me intentionally encouraging others.
✔️It's being able to say "It is well with my soul."

My word could have been a wow, bold, audacious, adventurous, explosive word of great and notable expectations. But maybe in this chaotic, busy and get-to-the-top-mindset world, contentment is a big, bold word. It seems daring and brave to look at what’s in our hands and our lives and say, “This is enough.”

Back to those easy going, non-complaining, satisfied and CONTENTED animals who express “It is well” most all the time. I raise my water glass to them in a silent toast and an unspoken "Amen" to my Maker Who makes it so for them and "It is well" for me. It is shouldering up to my "apostle" friend, St. Paul, and declaring “I, too, have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Have You Ever Had an Epiphany?

You know that sudden realization – that aha moment – when you suddenly understand the reality of something or the meaning of something. I've had many “epiphany” moments when I could see clearly what someone meant when that said "that" or when I’m reading passages from the Bible that I’ve read dozens of times before, but this time, I really understood it. It was a “revelation” -- a revealing – an epiphany! The lights came on!

Now, let's turn back time to the arrival of the Three Kings aka Magi aka Wise Men to the home of the Holy Family. This is Epiphany 101 -- the realization, aha moment, the revelation, the "epiphany" that the little baby boy that they were coming to worship is the Messiah, the Son of God. Were they "star" struck? Was there a glow around the child? Were there angels singing and little drummer boys playing and was Mary kneeling before Him in wonder and likewise, was Joseph just standing there gawking at his boy while hanging on to his shepherd's staff? Were all the animals lying down in a panoramic view of the holy scene? It's all debatable because theologians differ on whether it was at the manger or two years later at the Holy Family's home but one thing is for certain -- those men had studied the prophecies of the coming Messiah because they said, “We have seen His star in the East and were determined, by faith, to go and worship Him."

Today, January 6th is Epiphany Sunday and the 12th day of Christmas. It officially marks the end of the festive season of Christmas for Christians. That’s why so many of us wait until after this day to take down our Christmas decorations.

Epiphany is a Greek word which means “manifestation.” Today, we celebrate how God manifested His glory to the Magi. First, they saw THE star and chose to follow it all the way to Jesus. Second, when they found Jesus, besides offering “baby shower gifts” of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they humbled themselves, knelt down and worshipped Him. And, third, the result of their offering and worship was they went home changed. Talk about getting a “return” on your investment!!

And this is how the “flow chart” of our lives should look. Every day we should be choosing to follow THE STAR -- following Jesus. That’s the choice we make on a daily basis – in our workplaces, homes, schools, and communities -- honoring and worshipping our King, our Messiah, the Great I Am. The Magi saw more than a star. They saw God incarnate – divine God and man and when we seek Him, we’ll find Him. It begs us to fall on our knees to worship Him in honor of Who He is and what He has done for us.

The Wise Men were changed forever. They never went back to King Herod and his ungodly ways. “Normal” was no longer an option. They had an EPIPHANY. They had seen the glory of God manifested in that little boy -- God wrapped in human flesh.

And, because we are also WISE men and women, who see, hear, go, worship and adore the Son of God, everything changes for us, too! How can we go back to our old ways and patterns and inconsistencies once we’ve had an EPIPHANY of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in our lives?

Holy Spirit, please fill us up with the glory and manifestation of Jesus. May His glory change our way of thinking, acting, and helping others to have an EPIPHANY in their lives, too!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Good-Bye Past, But Thanks for the Memories!

I randomly watched the televised Garth Brooks Concert at Notre Dame last week. Impressive, massive crowd to hear him as he was literally “singing in the rain”. When he sang, “I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers”, I’ll admit I had to sit down and watch him AND the camera’s crowd highlights of couples looking into each other’s eyes, and even Garth’s eyes tearing up. I knew they were thinking “Thank God for not answering my prayers because if He had answered ‘yes’ to those prayers, no telling what my life would look like today!”

Maybe someone you really cared about broke up with you and now you look at them on Facebook and the life they’re living and you fall on your knees and thank God for NOT answering those prayers. Now you can thank God they broke your heart. Look what could have been. Look what the Lord has done. Maybe we don’t, right this minute, understand the reasons, but we can still praise God for the result.

I thought about the prayers I prayed over the years, asking God for a miracle in the midst of some of the toughest times. Good thing “His ways are so much higher than my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) because “my ways” would sure have borne some uncomfortable results. Now, looking back at 2018, we may be assessing how much we enjoyed the high points OR despising the low points.

I heard someone say that our lives our made up of highs and lows and we are the summation of all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. They said we shouldn't judge our lives by the minute by minute experiences, because if we did that when we went to Disney World, we'd rate our experiences so low that we would never want to go back. You know, the long lines we stand in and all the heat we endure. So when we think about 2018, we shouldn’t be so quick to call it a bad year, just because we went through some hard things. There were definitely some really good things that happened, too! By faith, we should accept whatever happened as part of God’s way of choosing to not answer some of our prayers the way we thought they should be answered. It is far better for us to have a story of grace that carried us through in the midst of it all!

Maybe, you think you’re chained in a Roman prison right now (metamorphically speaking) when it comes to the “stuff” you’re dealing with and the chains that bind you and the hopelessness you feel. Right while you’re there….you can hear how the Apostle Paul handled his Roman prison when he says "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7) WHAT? Rejoicing while in a damp, cold prison? Yes, rejoicing that he could write to us with the example of trusting that in EVERYTHING, God is working it ALL for our good! (Romans 8:28)

Let’s say “Good-bye to 2018 and every year before that, because the highs and lows are part of God’s master plan to make us the BEST we can be for Him and for the lives of others that we get to influence! Let 2019 breeze by with absolute trust in our Father Who knows what’s best for us – the Walt Disney experiences as well as the Roman prison ones!

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Woman Who Fears the Lord is to be Praised

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
This beautiful woman has been one of the sweetest, kindest, faith-filled women I have ever known. I’d love for you to know her too, so make sure you make it to heaven. That’s where she resides now. She went “home” on Saturday. This is Johnnie “Allene” Wheat, my brother’s precious wife. In my young eyes growing up, she was the “better half” of their duo. He was the firey, rambunctious one. She, the calm one. The most beautiful reward of their union is these three talented and equally faith-filled men! I was the “kid sister” (22 years difference). My big bro introduced me that way. I was a proud “kid sister”.

The claim-to-fame of my brother, Rocky, and Allene, his loving and devoted wife, was not my brother’s incredible baritone voice and music abilities or Allene’s gentle spirit, but it was their strength of character, faith, and integrity that they lived day by day. Their three boys picked up on that and they became men of great character and faith and today are all three pastors in churches here in Texas.

Richard, the middle son, talked about his Mom’s strength and faith. And Robert, the youngest son, continued to give his Mom beautiful accolades as he described how she survived and persevered in living her faith during her struggles of raising three high-energy boys. “Though she was 90 when she passed away, she was probably 120 emotionally because of us boys – but she got the years back when she had grandchildren (2 boys and 4 girls) who she adored." Each one expressed their love and appreciation for their mother’s strong faith as the most important attribute of her life well lived. It was beautiful to see and hear Robert lead the grandchildren in a song of tribute to their mom and “nanna”: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul. Worship His holy name”.

Oldest granddaughter, Mandi, described her “Nanna’s” presence as “calming”. Jordan, the oldest grandson, said it was hearing his Nanna sing and praise the Lord that encouraged his own faith. John, the oldest son said, "My brothers and I were given the best gifts from our dad and mom. Our dad was our first music director and our mom was our first Bible and prayer teacher. "Nightly, she would go into each boy’s room and kneel by our beds, placing her hand on us and praying for us AND every one of our family members." That kneeling will be a "forever" memory to all of us as John shared that after leaving his mom for just a short while on Saturday, her nurse, Tim, called him to return. When he returned Tim said, “I had been by to see her and when I came back she was kneeling by her bed. She passed away on her knees. John said, “She humbled herself to kneel to pray, and when she got up, she was standing in heaven."

It was cold and raining, but many of us went to Allene’s graveside to hear the final words spoken: "ashes to ashes and dust to dust”. I knew we were standing on holy ground, because under the green carpet laid out on the graves that surrounded Allene’s casket were the resting places of the bodies of my Mom, Edna Pearl Wheat, my Dad, Roscoe Owen Wheat, Sr., my big brother, Roscoe Owen "Rocky" Wheat, Jr., and now my beautiful sister-in-law’s body resides there. Oh, but don’t think for a minute that any of those four live there! My two other sisters went home to heaven years ago. I’m the last one, the baby and the kid sister, still standing upright on this side of heaven. Yes, the family is going home. But the legacy lives on. I remember my brother’s casket being lowered there seven years ago. His young grandchildren then, like yesterday, saw a casket, an “envelope” as described by John, but Graci-Mei, the youngest granddaughter, age six, provided the reason for the composure. She said, “That’s just Papa’s skin – he’s not in there – he’s in heaven!” And now his bride’s skin is in that envelope…..but she is really where we all long to join her one day.

I continue to proclaim with the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:55 “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh grave, where is your sting?” With each loved one’s graduation, the thrill of heaven that awaits us gets sweeter and sweeter, and the reality is assured. The real “us” never dies….we live on because we gave our lives to Christ and trusted in His promises “….that all who believe in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life”. John 3:16

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Do You Feel Like Quitting -- Already?

It’s just day three of 2019 and maybe you’re already feeling like quitting before you ever really get started on your New Year's resolutions. I plan on spending more time with the Lord in the mornings, but “This morning I need to shorten it up because I have a funeral to go to!" I plan on being more active physically, but “This fireplace feels so good and it's so cold outside! " I plan on starting a Bible Study or Life Group in my home this year, “But I need to really think that through because I know my schedule is so full already and besides my friends are all so busy. Who can add one more thing to their "plates"?”

And, so goes the aspirations and really good intentions. Each January I’m hit with the recognition of how utterly human I am. I become an idealist, I set a goal (or ten), and then I fail. I become disappointed, and then I give up. Take my journaling, for example. I’m on point for several days and then I go for days before I come back and squinch my brain to remember those days and what God and I did together.

It’s true that January can act as a clean slate. A fresh new start. A new beginning. Old things are passed away and behold, all things are brand spanking new! That’s what we love about it, isn’t it? We’re all longing to be made new. But Jesus is teaching me that, with Him, each day — each moment — is a clean slate. We don’t have to force ourselves into a rigid routine, but instead, start to recognize His gentle and loving rhythms of grace.

I am certain that this year I will have intentional sweet times of fellowship with my Lord and He will reveal sweet nuggets of gold from His Word to me. I am also certain there will be days when there is so much on my mind that I won’t give Him my best attention and I’ll miss some of those nuggets. I also know I won’t suddenly become an avid-never-missing-a-day of work-outs in the gym or the pool. And, that Bible Study…..I will not get all stressed out about when I’ll start it, but I plan on seeking God for His wisdom and for divine inspirations that will motivate me to “Start NOW!”.

Recognizing that my life doesn’t need to be a structured, rigid routine (although there is a time and place for that) but instead a rhythmic journey set to the tune of God’s grace, provides me with so much freedom.
I set a goal. There is His grace.
I fail. There is His grace.
I try again. There is His grace.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up and my goal will be to spend quality time with my Lord. I might even get so caught up in my time with Him, I’ll forget about my “To Do” list that can be done later or even tomorrow. Tomorrow I will go back to the pool or gym and, eventually, I’ll become more absolute in the importance of my health and strength and energy. Eventually, I will be so full of God’s Word in me, that I won’t be able to contain it all and I MUST do more than my blogging to get it all out of me and I’ll start that Bible Study even if it’s only me that shows up.

Eventually, maybe tomorrow, I’ll be that gal who is so on purpose that all those goals and aspirations I put out there for this year will be as rhythmic and routine in my life, as brushing my teeth. But, in the meantime, I’ll thank God for His grace in sticking with my consistency AND inconsistency. Here’s to His grace that bears with me. Here’s to today – Day Three and here’s to tomorrow – Day Four of a year that promises to be blessed and highly favored because of God’s amazing grace!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Till There Was You

I was recently driving my 14-year-old grandson to school when he asked: "What's your favorite song, Nana?" Without much thought, I said, “‘Till There Was You” and I proceeded to explain that song was Papa’s and my wedding song. He had his phone connected by Bluetooth and searched for it and up came the Beatle’s rendition. We listened to the whole song and, to my astonishment; he said: “I like that song!” I went on to tell him that we loved going to musical theater performances and that song was from “The Music Man”. I’m sure he was in a fog about that production, but I was pleased with his acceptance of my “oldie but goodie”.

During the tenderness of the Christmas season, I was having the sweetest of times with God one morning and I started singing that song, but this time I wasn’t singing it to my sweetheart but to God. And the words are so befitting to a relationship before Christ, and after falling in love with Him.

"There were bells on a hill, but I never heard them ringing!
No, I never heard them at all, till there was YOU!
There were birds in the sky, but I never saw them winging!
No, I never saw them at all, till there was YOU!
Then there was music and wonderful roses.
They tell me, in sweet fragrant meadows of dawn and dew.
There was love all around, but I never heard it singing.
No, I never heard it at all, till there was you.”

That’s how I feel about my Lord – who turned my sadness, gloom, despair into joy and gladness. He gave me purpose and hope. Now I see through rose-colored glasses of positivity and great expectation every day. My family and I went to see the new “Mary Poppins Returns” movie on Christmas Eve. Yes, we are that family that embraces “good feeling, happy ending” movies. Afterward, my granddaughter said, “I guess that’s what life on drugs is like!” We laughed, but my daughter, with her Godly insight, said, “That’s what perspective looks like. Most people escape their realities by drugs or other vices to have a utopic experience. But those of us in Christ with Holy Spirit living in us have those experiences because Holy Spirit enables us to have joy in the midst of fear; gladness instead of sadness; peace instead of turmoil; hope instead of hopelessness; love instead of hate; dancing instead of mourning.

Maybe you’d like to get off the doom and gloom track and get on board this “Joyful, joyful we adore You!” train, too! It sure makes for a gumdrop and roses and whiskers on kitten kind-of-day and life. Let me introduce you to the Conductor! He’s known as the Prince of Peace, the Solid Rock, the Great I Am! Once you get to know Him, you, too will be singing “There were bells on a hill and I never heard thing ringing – no I never heard them at all TILL THERE WAS YOU!

“You turned my mourning into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11,12

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Are We There Yet?

Happy New Year! Yes, we are there! 2019 came in like a breath of fresh air – especially if you walked outside at the midnight hour to light some firecrackers or simply to take in 2019 from the outside in. Now, an entire year of awesomeness awaits us. The squares on our 2019 calendars are blank, but very soon those squares will be filled with a host of activities, events, ceremonies, birthdays, anniversaries and exciting opportunities for a new year of great conquests, victories, and adventures.

Back to my post title: “Are we there yet?” Those are familiar words to moms and dads who venture out to take road trips with their young ones. After the first hour of an eight-hour journey, they'll ask: “How long until we’re there?” Then, it’s “Are we there yet?” And that’s the language we often use with God. We pray for a quick fix or an on-the-spot answer to our prayers, but more often than not, God’s timing is NOT our timing. I’ll admit it. Sometimes God’s Word doesn’t make a lick of sense to me (as we say in the South). “If you say to this mountain, be removed and do not doubt in your heart, it will be removed!” (Mark 11:20) Okay. I’ve got this! “Mountain be removed!” Nada; nothing; zilch! I’ll try this one! “All things are possible to those who believe.” (Mark 9:23). I AM believing! Nada; nothing, zilch! I stare at the words on my thin-papered pages of my Bible and end up scratching my head with the end of my Bible highlighter.

I felt that way when I recently read this, “So God led the people by the roundabout way” (Exodus 13:18). This mind boggling little passage is about the Israelites leaving Egypt to go to their Promise Land. It’s before they messed up and God said they had to wander around for forty years. This is a whole different deal where God intentionally led them the roundabout way.

Have you ever felt that way? Did you have a lot of roundabouts in your 2018 year? I sure did, and I suspect that last year didn’t turn out the way many of you planned also. There might have been some chaos and something unexpected happened. If so, let’s take heart. It doesn’t automatically mean that we’re not in God's will. Sometimes He just leads us the roundabout way.

Why? Because His ways are not like ours. Because we think in minutes and He thinks "eternity". We barely see a foot in front of us and He knows the whole story, the whole winding way that is going to get us where He wants us to go. It makes me sigh and laugh when He sometimes takes the slower, scenic route.

Maybe this year I’ll act less like the kid in the back seat asking “Are we there yet?” every two minutes. Maybe I’ll roll down the window and enjoy the view. Maybe I’ll remember that life is like a road trip. It’s about so much more than just getting there.

We don't know what tomorrow holds -- or this new year holds -- but one thing we do know -- HE KNOWS and HE holds our tomorrows and, better yet, He holds our hands and is with us through the straight and narrow AND the roundabouts. Our future is so bright. Let's purpose to wake each day to the prospects of what each day will hold by Him Who knows everything about everything -- and with that kind of Trip Advisor, if we pay close attention, He'll guide us into making 2019 to be our best, most blessed year EVER!