Thursday, December 13, 2018

Oh Tidings of Comfort and Joy

God REST You Merry Gentlemen. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! For this Nana, "rest" hasn't been the operative word this week, but comfort and joy are abounding. Being here with my “Austin” grandchildren this week has been filled with non-stop activity. I love that the grown-up ones enjoy coming over to the house to hang with us, given their busy schedules. Last night I made “comfort" food -- pot roast and all the trimmings. Of course, I wanted to throw out the bait for another time together before I go back home on Friday. I treasure these times that I’ll never get back, so "Make the moments count!" is my aim!

There is never “slow motion” at this home. But it’s still comfort and joy to me. The younger two boys have busy, full schedules. Even being here for my grandson’s “out of his COMFORT zone” first solo music performance at his school’s Christmas Festival, brought ME “comfort and joy”! And he did a great job.

You can see that I make it my number one priority to embrace those who are still with me on this side of heaven. I’m running my race with theirs and oh, the comfort and joy it brings me. This time of the year brings additional times of joy and celebration, but, if we’re not bent toward finding the good and beautiful in the little things and the little people and the little moments, it can be a very somber and painful time. I know that feeling. My daddy passed away on December 17th when I was just 15-years-old. I remember my mother’s tears as she unwrapped his presents from under the tree. My own precious husband passed away on November 16th and Christmas has never been the same because Papa isn't here to read his hilarious version of the “Nativity Christmas Story” to the grandkids, who adored when he changed his accents for the characters and the animals. Most recently, a dear friend’s husband passed away, and another friend’s wife passed away, and another’s father passed away. I understand when people’s yuletide cheer doesn’t measure up because they’re hurting so much.

I assure you, however, there is sweet comfort and joy to be found when we determine to look for it and find it, then capitalize it and make a celebration of it! It is such a better alternative for discomfort and sadness.

Don’t give up, dear ones who are hurting. You may not want to sing about decked halls or jingling bells, but there is greater news worth singing. Don’t let your sorrow steal you away from Him who brings tidings of comfort and joy. The same little Lord Jesus away in the manger is the mighty King Jesus and Savior who came to give you abundant life. (John 10:10). This pain won’t last forever if our hope is in the ONE who holds our todays and tomorrows. May we remember the angel's words on the night when Christ was born. “Fear not for I bring you GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY which shall be for all people." Luke 2:10. During this beautiful time of the year…we can still sing the words “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, let NOTHING you dismay, remember Christ, our Savior, was born on Christmas Day. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!”

If we are among those who are on the side of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year", maybe it's time for us to add some of that cheer to those around us who could use a smile, a hug, a warm embrace of Jesus in the flesh -- Jesus as Emmanuel -- God with us -- God in us -- reaching out and loving others -- to help bring them GOOD TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

From the Manger To the Cross -- Prepositional Phrase or Powerful Truth

From the Manger To the Cross -- Prepositional Phrase or Powerful Truth
I remember learning prepositional phrases in grade school. A preposition is a word such as: after, in, to, on, with and are usually used in front of nouns or pronouns and they show the relationship with words in a sentence. I became a technical editor at an Electric Cooperative years ago where I worked as an Administrative Assistant to the General Manager. I started out simply reading, proofing, and editing articles that were submitted for the monthly newsletter and publication. Before long, I became a journalist as I interviewed employees and customers, and eventually became the editor of that monthly publication.

Isn’t it amazing how, when we are willing to adapt to new learning experiences and then embrace them as our own, that we excel in new business and life opportunities? That on-the-job training has served me well as I continue to provide those skills to ministries and organizations today.

As a technical editor, I recognize the appropriate use of prepositions and am keen on being sure that I never leave them hanging at the end of a sentence. For example, incorrectly used: “I learned that skill at the company I worked for.” Correctly worded: “At the company I worked for, I learned that skill.” No big deal in casual communications like a text message or email, but when I was editing my daughter's books or writing an article for a publication, I made sure I wasn't leaving them hanging.

Enough of my grammar lesson for today because this post is about the proper understanding of the prepositions that should cause us all to feel absolutely charged up about important relationships. For example: Abraham Lincoln's famous words from the Gettysburg Address were "a government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people", is memorable for its prepositions. But, even greater is our relationship with God. One of the ways we can discover more about the Lord, and His relationship with us, is through the prepositions that indicate our position IN Him: "All things have been created THROUGH Him and FOR Him, and He is BEFORE all things, and IN Him all things hold together"(Colossians 1:16-17). Our entire relationship with God is very well expressed with three prepositions: We are IN Christ, WITH Christ, and UNDER Christ. "WITH God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 "WITHOUT Him we can do nothing." John 15:5

Just think about this little Baby Boy Who we celebrate during this tender and sweet time of the year Who is packed full of hope and purpose that links together time, people, places and things that glue us together. We aren't just hanging out there like an incorrect positioning of a prepositional phrase. No hanging, but fully IN us, living THROUGH us, WITH us, FOR us. We can apply all those prepositional phrases TO our lives WITH gratitude that the little BABY went FROM the manger TO the cross and BECAME our Sovereign Lord and Mighty King!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Our Christmas Fire

I’m sitting in front of this contained and beautiful fireplace as I post this blog today. I was reading this scripture a couple of days ago: “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5) It refers to the damage that our tongues can cause – words that escape from our tongues that seem so incidental but can cause major damage if they’re not kept in check.

Reading that meaning caused me to remember “a little fire that kindled” in one of our Christmases long ago. We were new homeowners at last after paying a whopping $7,500 for our little fixer-upper home. that we turned into our “love nest”. Our children were ages three and one. My 22-year-old husband loved adding ambiance to the atmosphere with candlelight. This day, with the small, decorative kerosene lantern that he lit earlier, decided to light a nearby candle from the fire of the lantern, tipping it ever so slightly to light the candle. The candle was lit, but some of the kerosene poured out and a fire erupted. He dropped the lantern filled with kerosene and the fire blazed to our carpet. His quick thinking to stamp it out helped, but still, our carpet was scorched. Now we had to find carpet to match the huge spot that was burned to replace that scorched spot.

You can imagine my husband’s angst that he was so “stupid and careless” (his words, not mine). It was such a small lantern, but given the right set-of-circumstances, it sure produced big problems. As I type this, I couldn’t help but think of the recent small campfire that became the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history.

It’s tempting to think about how we use our tongues is no big deal. Our words may not appear to do much damage, so we aren’t more careful. We know that “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) so keeping guard of our words will certainly keep us from setting our words ablaze.

I pay close attention to my vehicle’s indicators to change the oil, put air in the tires, etc. Keeping an eye on the indicators that could set us up for a “fire” from our tongues is critically important in preventing a “forest fire”. Trust me. This is the voice (rather, tongue) of experience sharing this. Keeping a fire extinguisher on hand is a good idea, but never having to use it is even better.

I’m reminded today that our words have power. The power to heal and the power to hurt. Words are no small thing. A Sunday School song we sang as kids was “Be careful little mouth what you say!” May we all be careful with our words -- choosing blessing over cursing; helping over hurting; waiting rather than rushing the wrong words out into the world.

At this beautiful time of the year, there may be situations that create opportunities to "let 'er rip" and get careless with our words even in innocent conversations and situations. May our words bring “Joy to the World” as the light of Christ shines in AND out of us!

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Monday, December 10, 2018

I'm in My Happy Place

Just look at those smiles! Those are my grandchildren who all live here in Austin, their new "happy place", after having been strung out from Georgia to Seattle. What an amazing turn of events. I can’t begin to express the joy of their dad and mom, Ryan and Shawntel, having their boys (and our Ruthie, Braden’s wife) close to them. When I arrived on Friday, everyone was here at the Wuerch’s for dinner – laughing, sharing, contributing advice, offering genuine understanding to each other and such sincerely respecting each other. It is a "happy place".

After going to church together (sweetest “happy place”) yesterday morning, we went out for lunch and then back home for “my” famous chocolate cake. It was once called “Granny’s cake”, but now it’s been renamed “Nana’s cake”. I finally mastered the recipe. Lord, have mercy – it took me long enough. I could never get the icing to the hard fudge icing. But practice makes perfect – I did it!

My son is in his “happy place”. I witnessed it when I heard his big boys seeking his wise counsel. I witnessed it when the boys acted on that counsel. I love the relationship of Shawntel and Ruthie – finally, another girl to add to the mix of all that testosterone!! Such a happy place!

I share these personal highlights today to emphasize “happy place”. Do these family members agree on everything? NOT! Do they have the same likes and dislikes when it comes to food or movies or games or sports events? NOT! But they all agree they are in a “happy place” when it comes to celebrating each other and their achievements. They agree that they are here for each other – no matter what!

We all want to be happy and have places of happiness, but sometimes trying to find happiness can be a challenge. Often times we search for it in all the wrong places or ways, when the answer is much simpler. The places, the people, the sweet times can represent being in a happy place, but far more important is wherever we are and whoever we are with, shouldn’t determine our “happy place”. Psalm 144:15 says "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord." And, Psalm 119:1,2 says “Happy are those who live pure lives, who follow the LORD’s teachings. Happy are those who keep his rules, who try to obey Him with their whole heart.” Our “happy place” is wherever we are when our WHOEVER is God and we listen and heed His wise counsel.
Welcome to MY "happy place".

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Daddy’s Girl

Yesterday was my girl’s birthday and, quite unlike me, I wasn’t with her because I was on “Nana Duty” in Austin. I called her and we talked about how much she was always a Daddy’s Girl. No, he wasn’t the hands-on, diaper changing, feeding or the one who got up with her in the middle of the night – that’s when she was Mama’s girl. But when it came to matters of seizing the opportunity to turn her little “charcoal” into a “diamond”, he showed up. She was his "project". He saw her God-given abilities and was relentless in cultivating her talents the rest of his life. He never stopped encouraging her and giving her wise advice. And, because she embraced his words, more and more doors opened to her.

Staci was in 20-degrees Colorado last week and I asked when we talked by phone, “I hear your Dad’s voice…..’Are you wearing a coat?’” He was known for being the “mother hen” to be sure she was taking care of her voice. Then with her travels, “Did you take your soundtracks?” (Randomly, she would be asked to sing at an event, and he wanted her to always be prepared.) I still hear him advising her: “Stop talking so much – you need to rest your voice!” "Pronounce your words clearly!" “Smile!" "Get closer to the mic!" She gives her Daddy so much credit for who she is today. I’ve proudly loved their relationship. He was her knight in shining armor and I was so thrilled to witness their unbreakable bond that grew beyond imagination.

She knows that it has never bothered me that she gives her Dad so much credit for who she is today. He was, himself, incredibly talented, and he poured those talents into her, both genetically and with hours upon hours of personal training. His investment into her has paid off in monumental ways.

As I drove to Austin, I was thinking about my relationship with my Father – not my earthly Dad, because he was very sick and passed away when I was 15, but my Heavenly Father. I’m Daddy’s Girl, too! There were times when I was struggling with “stuff” and I envisioned myself crawling up in God’s lap and seeing Him wrapping His arms around me and assuring me “Everything’s gonna’ be alright!” And, it was. I’m a Daddy’s Girl. I assure you I know how much He loves me. I have come to know His protection and security. He instructs me daily through His Holy Spirit Who lives big in me. I know it is Him when I’m reminded to do this or that better. When I feel less than proud of myself, He’ll remind me how proud He is of me.

Let me assure you “YOU are God’s girl or boy, too!” Our Father loves us. How do we know that we are fully loved by God? Because His Word tells us so. One of my favorite verses that talks about the depth of God’s love is found in Psalm 103:11: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.” He believes in us and is eager to help when we ask Him. He is for us as our protector, mentor, helper, and friend.

The more I sense God’s love, the more I know I’m Daddy’s girl.
My girl didn’t have to earn her Daddy’s love. And neither do we have to earn God’s love. God’s love is stronger and deeper than any human father’s love. In God, we have a Dad Who knows us and understands us better than anyone. He sees our heart and desire to be good; He sees our struggles and how we are drawn to things that aren’t good for us. He is always there to listen and help when we pray to Him with a sincere and humble heart. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” Psalm 34:15.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sweetheart, You've Got Your Girl!

My obstetrician was going on a 2-week vacation right when my baby was due, and since he had been my "go-to" doc throughout my pregnancy, I didn't want to take a chance on him not being there for me. Doc told me the baby was "fully cooked" so "Let's help her make her debut on Monday", and that's what we did. Back in those days, most of us were "out" when the baby arrived, while the dads were in the Waiting Room.

When I woke up, my husband said, "Sweetheart, you've got your girl." Oh, the inexpressible joy that I felt. Of course, I would have had that joy if God had blessed us with another boy, but, I loved that God's plan was for this precious baby girl, born today, December 8th.

I'm celebrating that precious girl today because I've seen God's purposes for her life being fulfilled in some of the most miraculous and tremendous ways. For the first months of her life, she was a sick little baby with having many bouts of pneumonia and was eventually diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Not only did the enemy lose that battle, but he lost it in trying to steal our faith. She was ultimately healed, and my husband and our faith grew exponentially. "What the enemy meant for evil, God turned it for good." Genesis 50:20

She was a "Daddy's girl and she became his God-given "project". He understood right from the beginning that she was special, and that God was going to use her life in many ways. He was her sports, voice, stage and life coach. You think a Stage Mom is something. You should have seen the likes of his training and coaching our girl. So many times in tears, she'd come to me asking for my intervention with Daddy who was relentless in pulling out the best in her. "Practice. Practice. Practice" was his philosophy. He succeeded, and that little girl eventually knew no fear to be on the stage, to belt out another song on camera, to speak to huge audiences, and be with high profile people. But more than all of that, her name, Staci Michelle -- "resurrection life" and "close to God" have held true. She has brought so much life to us and so many others. She has led by example in integrity and character in business and life -- sincerely making a difference in so many people's lives.

I spoke at her surprise birthday party with close friends two nights ago and said, “Seedtime and harvest”. Her Daddy and I planted many seeds of faith into her from her very beginning – she knew that the enemy lost his battle on stealing her life at a young age and she has been giving him “hell” ever since with her relentless passion to change the world. Now, more than ever, it seems those seeds are producing a harvest beyond our wildest dreams.

As I'm typing this, I know I must sound like a proud and braggadocios Mom. In a sense, I am, because our greatest investment paid off. The time we invested into her -- through tears and time and finances -- paid off. I tell you this story -- celebrating this day and the precious life God gave us, but mostly to tell you, Moms and Dads, out there -- "INVEST in your kids. Take time to give them the best of you. Cultivate their talents. Speak into them that they can do and be anything that God wants them to be. Teach them about God and His faithfulness and absolutely knowing that "nothing is impossible with Him". What a payback for an investor! The payback of years of growth, rich rewards, paying forward to the next generation (their children and grandchildren) is the greatest reward. And the multiplied blessings of that investment goes way beyond our own family -- it spreads to others -- these seeds bear fruit in so many other people's lives. I promise you....after many, many years of investing into what matters most, it is worth every effort. Just imagine what your investment will reap in rewards.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Who Do You Run to When You Need a Friend?

Today’s inspiration for this blog came from the graphic posted by my friend, Michael Beaudoin. Thank you, Michael! “The first one to recognize Jesus was an unborn child.” Here's what that line means:

Mary had just heard from Gabriel that she was going to give birth to the Son of God. Did you catch that? She was going to give birth to the “Holy, Son of God”!!! I’m not using that as slang! I’m just saying that a young peasant girl received the announcement that she was going to give birth WITHOUT relations with a man, and the clincher is: THAT baby is the Son of God! Then…. what’s a girl to do? Stay in the spot and wonder “How can this be?” “How will Joseph take this news?” “What will the neighbors think?” “What about my wedding and my wedding dress and all the plans I’ve made?” We don’t read any such questions, though she may have had them running through her mind. She simply responded to Gabriel’s message: “Yes. Be it unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Back to that first photo...after hearing Gabriel’s message and giving her “yes”, Mary ran with haste to get to her cousin, Elizabeth, who had been barren, but Gabriel told Mary a miracle had taken place and Elizabeth is six months pregnant. After all, NOTHING is impossible with God! And when Elizabeth heard her greeting, her baby recognized the Son of God in her and leaped for joy in her womb. (Luke 1:39-40).

God is the world’s greatest matchmaker EVER! I’m not talking about the kind of romantic matches made online, but rather about "divine" connections made between women in need and those who can help. I have many of those connections and before I would share "my load" with just anyone, I would go to those gals who have my back and I have theirs. Those are the women I do life with. In this Luke 1 Christmas Story, God gives us a beautiful picture of what it looks like when He gives the gift of that kind of friends to help us in challenging times. Here, He joins together a young Mary, with an older woman, Elizabeth, and encourages both of them in the linking. If we’ll zoom in a little, there are some important lessons for us.

Why did Mary need to pack up and leave home to go see Elizabeth? Where was her mother? Her friends? No matter the answers, one fact is clear. Mary needed a faith-filled woman with whom she could connect. In fact, she hurried there! We live in a world where people are lonely and hurting and we know the saying "Misery loves company”. Mary could have sat at home and worried about this new startling info and turn to a nearby friend for support. But, what friend could understand THIS dilemma? She didn’t look for a friend who knew little of life to give her news to, but, Gabriel had given her Elizabeth's miracle, nothing-is-impossible-with-God story! She knew she was the kind of friend she needed.

There was such joy in their connection. The rest of this story is so beautiful that I can hardly explain it adequately. Elizabeth was elated to hear Mary’s voice and her baby boy leaped in her womb. She cried out in a loud voice, and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Two anointed-with-the-Holy-Spirit boys were inside these women And then Mary started singing with joy and praising and magnifying God.

The outcome of these women’s connection was great joy. Not only were they happy in the moment, but they were forever enriched by the match that God had made between the two of them. God calls us to connect so we can mature. Mary was supported, and Elizabeth had a chance to share her maturity and support. That same joy can be in store for you and me! Let's connect, Girl Friends, with those who are connected by the Holy Spirit. If ever we needed each other, it is today!

Lord, thank You for giving us divine connections with others who not only encourage us in our faith, but we encourage them with your faithfulness!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

I've witnessed so much peace and goodwill over the last several days since the passing of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. Many accolades and gracious editorials, social media posts and televised stories of this very praiseworthy American statesman were seen and heard almost non-stop. His funeral, yesterday, was beautiful and inspiring even though the tension on that first row of presidents and first ladies was sure obvious. It took the passing of a peace-filled former president for them to be together. But, bipartisanship has been sensed from all sides, except for the “slanted” commentators who used their segments to talk about the “stark contrast” of his presidency to our current president with disparaging remarks. What a shame! My two cents worth here: Every president elected to the highest office of this land, deserves to be respected and honored for the price they pay to lead and protect our country, regardless of their leadership style! Okay, enough of my rant! Back to peace and goodwill!

The words, “Peace, goodwill toward men”, keeps echoing in my heart. No doubt, peace and goodwill have often been missing this year. They’ve gotten lost somewhere in the hate-filled mobs, politics, Hollywood, news media, and even our relationships with each other. Oh, but there's good news!

I segue to another story and another scene. The weary shepherds keeping watch over their flock of sheep. The shock and awe of angels declaring the good news. The star and the manger. The Baby and the hope.

God could have chosen a lot to say that night. He could have dealt with politics (which had their troubles then too). He could have lauded verbose words to proclaim the need for morality and civility. He could have taken a tone like a ruler-tapping teacher and told us all to get our act together. But instead, He blessed us. He spoke words of encouragement and hope.

What if the whole world did the same this Christmas? What if in this season we all put down our opinions and picked up grace? What if we shut our mouths and opened our doors; pulled back our judgments and reached out our hands? What if our angry words were buried and we brought out the welcome mat for kindness and mercy?

Sometimes we forget that Someone already came to save the world. That job has been taken. That box has been checked and the task has been marked complete. It is not on our shoulders. And this is what Jesus told us will continue that mission: “A new commandment I give to you, love one another” (John 13:34).

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men! It’s the good news of the first Christmas. It’s what we need so much more than the doomsday speakers out there. So much more than another television tirade. More than fists and voices raised. And this good news hasn’t changed. I suggest that it's time to spread the GOOD NEWS of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men”! We need to turn up the volume of our peace-filled voices and turn up the amps of our “lights”! Let’s make this Christmas all about love. Which is really just another way of saying let’s make it all about Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Is it NESTING Time or BUY NOW and DO MORE Time?

Oh my! The holiday ads, promotions, and marketing campaigns are amped up. Every day, the message is "buy now for best bargains", 50% off today only, deal of the day! BUY -- BUY -- BUY!! There are banners outside stores, ads coming in the mail and tons of them coming through on social media. It takes great willpower to NOT be drawn in. After all, it's only 20 more days until Christmas! And, believe you me -- I was one caught up in the frenzy for many years. The pain was real!

Something happened to me this year. I’ve turned over some new leaves. At this age and stage of my life, I get to do that. My father-in-law was the one who closed out our family Christmas’ present exchanges with his grand finale of handing out his envelopes which had a little money in them for each one of the family members. This was a big milestone year for me and I think it merited me making some changes. Since Dad has been long gone for about 20 years now, I’ve decided to carry on where he left off and this year, my family will receive envelopes with a few dollars in them with a love letter from me to them.

I can’t begin to explain the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. You'll know that relief one day. No need for mall or online shopping! Oh, sweet Baby Jesus! I can celebrate the gift of You so care-free because of my newfound freedom! What a relief it is. I am sure not desiring to dampen your Christmas spirit by my new-way-of-thinking. This is my time to change, but oh that I might have discovered this freedom before now.

I also cut back on my usual “decorating every room in the house” to putting out just enough that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in my home – especially with my old family photos of Papa reading the Christmas story to the grandchildren and my children’s visits to see Santa. I didn’t even put out all of my Christmas churches or villages! I haven’t been tempted by Pinterest or emails that beckoned me to get started with craft items and buy more decorations. I’m passing up any reasoning that I need to do more to make this season more and just right.

Instead of my usual Christmas frenzy, I'm "nesting". This is the awesome season of Advent and finding a "nesting" place to ponder the beauty of Christ and His coming as a baby and His return to take us away to glory takes precedence over the hustle and bustle of the season. Don't we really want to push the MUTE button to separate ourselves from the crowds and busyness to enter into God’s stillness by taking some R&R (rest and relaxation) time to go find HIM in the secret place?

I'm a realist and I know we often don't have much choice but to stay on hyper-mode. Somewhere, however, there must be a quiet little "nesting" spot that we can find to pause for some silence when we can. It may mean we have to turn down the TV or the radio or shut off the computer because of the constant temptation to buy more, do more and be more. Hearing God’s voice in the midst of all the hubbub isn’t always easy, but when we place a high priority on practicing God’s presence, we just might find more strength, energy, and enthusiasm for all those things we must do. Maybe it’s as simple as reading a short devotion or simply whispering His name in prayer. Maybe we should start nesting like a Mama Bird who is preparing for the arrival of her babies, to sit and wait and breathe in peace and quiet and exhale the worries, the stress, the fears, and concerns. I promise. God is quite aware of all that's on our plates. He totally gets us, but all the while, He's over in a quiet "nesting" spot just waiting for us to cozy up to Him for refreshing and restoration.

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Honoring President George H.W. Bush -- Character is What Mattered Most

A gift of two tickets from my children to the OU vs Texas Big-12 game on Saturday sure made me giddy and proud to represent our Oklahoma team well. It was a thrill to be on the “winning” side in the Cowboys’ incredible AT&T Stadium. On our way back home, my Waze app directed us to go down the President George Bush Tollway (PGBT). It was Saturday so the usual traffic was way less and we made it home quickly.

Not until I heard about our 41st President George H.W. Bush passing away late Saturday, did I think much about a toll road named after him. Suffice it to say, that person must have lived a stellar life and done some remarkable things, to have something named after them. I remember my daughter's comments about his genuine kindness to her after she sang "God Bless America" and "I'm Proud to be an American" at an event where she shared the stage with him at a motivational event. His "talk" was about character and freedom.

I've read many stories that came with many accolades and acknowledgments of his character, integrity, and honor. He was the last U.S. president to have served in combat. He and his adoring wife, Barbara, hold the record for the longest marriage in presidential history. A young man of "means", he enlisted in the armed forces on his 18th birthday. The youngest pilot in the Navy when he got his wings, he flew 58 combat missions during the World War II. On a mission over the Pacific, he was shot down and rescued by a US submarine. He was elected to two terms in the House of Representatives, then served as Ambassador to the UN, then Director of the CIA, vice president, and president.

More than all those accomplishments, President Bush has been remembered most for his personal character. President Trump celebrated Mr. Bush’s “authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country.” NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison added, “He represented the best of our country with generosity, dignity, humility, and kindness.” His son, Jeb, called him simply “the greatest human being that I will ever know.”

Two commitments explain Mr. Bush’s legacy: his desire to live with integrity, and his love for Christ. It had to be his faith that produced such a legacy of character. Here’s what is most important for us to learn from someone who has lived a value-based life. A life of such character does not end when its days on earth are over. The Bible says of the righteous Abel, “Through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

We can certainly learn from his legacy and resolve to emulate his life of character and commitment to Jesus. If we make those choices, our lives will speak on earth long after we are in heaven. Dr. Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts – not on marble.”

We will remember you, President Bush! Thank you for living your life with honor and integrity. This day, I’m being challenged with taking my own character up a notch because of the inspiration of your life and death. RIP.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Christmas Lights and the Light of the World

Is it just me, or am I seeing more homes lit up with twinkling Christmas lights this year? Hopefully, it means the Christmas spirit is catching hold of people's hearts and they're desiring their "lights" to shine brightly! I know most people are adding to the festivity of Christmas and don't consider the lights they're displaying to symbolize Christ, the Light of the World, that dispels the darkness. But, nevertheless, that's what this girl thinks. Those light displays, great or small, are dispelling the darkness where they are. My lights don’t qualify for extravagance but they do merit checking the box “Donna lets her little lights shine”!

Whether we are the extravagant, over-the-top Christmas light displayer, or we're like my community where we have just mini-displays, there is good news for us: our homes are still expressing the Christmas spirit. Lights are an important symbol of the meaning of Christmas. Jesus entered this world as the Light of the World to dispel darkness and God got in on the original light show. Just think about the dazzling array of angels who appeared to the shepherds and then the "extravagant" light show of the star over Bethlehem that drew the Wise Men to it. All those fun birth announcements we see today on social media don't hold a candle to THAT birth announcement and LIGHT show!

I like to think that the LIGHT that lives in us is dispelling the darkness in our sphere of influence. In that case, "You light up my life" takes on a whole new meaning to a world that is begging for LIGHT." Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12. And, here's the real kicker: Jesus said to us "YOU are the light of the world." Matt 5:14. How's that for a standard to live up to? It sure puts the onus on us to check out our wattage and light output, doesn't it?

Bottom line, the darkness of this world can only be cured by the LIGHT of the ONE who created it: His Light and our Light. I'm thinking that the song "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" should be made a Christmas carol, for most certainly, His LIGHT shining through us could be the extravagant, over-the-top Christmas LIGHT display that could make a difference in the lives of those around us here and around our world. So, shine little lights, shine!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

In the Waiting Room of Advent

I've had my share of hospital waiting rooms -- waiting while a loved one is having surgery or for the birth of a baby. While we're waiting, a transformation is taking place in the operating room. Parts of the body that were diseased or broken are being removed or repaired or new devices or parts are being added to repair the body, or, joyfully, a precious baby is being birthed. Transformation happens while we're in the Waiting Room.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and is very much like a "Waiting Room" where transformation is taking place. The first candle (the HOPE candle) will be lit on my church's Advent wreath. When we speak of Advent, we're referring to the four weeks before Christmas (the Waiting Room) when we prepare and anticipate Christ leaving heaven, coming to earth, being born of a virgin and dwelling among man. In a sense, a transformation is taking place because in the "Waiting Room" we are expectantly waiting and remembering our Lord and Savior's birth, as we reflect on God's prophecies and promises to His people.

When I was a child, I could hardly wait for Christmas. There was the anticipation of all the delightful surprises: the delicious baked goodies, reindeer movies, our Christmas tree, the Christmas program where we wore our best outfits and recited our little poems, being a character in the Christmas play, singing carols at church and school and, of course, the presents! We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, but the grand finale was Santa’s delivery of the one big present on Christmas morning. I’ll never forget the year my big brother ruined Santa's magic when he was ho-ho-ho-ing and I saw him delivering Santa’s gift (my new Tiny Tears doll).

When my husband and I added to the nuances of Christmas the celebrating of the season of Advent, Christmas took on an even greater meaning to us. Each Sunday during Advent, a single candle is lit on the Advent wreath, one candle for the first Sunday, two for the next and so on. Then we sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," a hymn that expresses the longing of God's people for their Messiah. It is such a beautiful, intimate and holy time of HOPING and anticipating the Someone and something that transformed the lives of men and women everywhere.

The birth of Christ gives reminds us that we can live life in a radical way – the way of trusting, believing, and expecting that all He’s promised us is ours as we patiently wait for His perfect plan for our the Waiting Room. During this beautiful Advent season, may we find that place of loving and deepening our relationship with God – delighting in Him. It’s a radical way of living, but the infant in the manger, as sweet and mild as He seems, is our triumphant King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That precious baby grew up, and He sacrificed His life so that we can live a life of hope and great expectation every day.

May we let Him know how much we love Him and how much we desire our hearts to have a fresh revelation of Himself. May we all seek Him as the Wise Men once did and may we build in our children and grandchildren an excitement, not just for the arrival of a jolly old man in a red suit, but for the advent of the Savior of the world.

I wish you and your family a very blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas. May the Lord bless you with an abundance of His love, His grace, and His presence. May He grant you the company of all those you hold dear and gift you, above all, with a greater measure of Himself. That's what I call the GIFT that just keeps on giving!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

I love hearing people’s love stories. In fact, that’s one of my “asks”, not just for table-talk, but I sincerely love hearing how couples met, fell in love and got married. Maybe I’m living vicariously through their stories, and while I love a good on-screen love-story movie, there is nothing like real life ones. I know how widow women love it when someone asks us about our sweethearts and “our story”! Might I suggest that you give a widow or widower, and even couples you know, a real joy by requesting that they tell you their “story”! You’ll see a twinkle in their eyes when they start sharing. In fact, those embers in their fireplace just might be set ablaze again!

But, better than our own personal love stories, let’s think about how it goes with our “Jesus” love story, especially when we’ve been quite disappointed by the shifty, disappointing and untrustworthy “dates” we’ve had with others in the past. First, you hear about this "guy" from a friend. She tells you she wants you to meet him because he’d be perfect for you. You’re hesitant about meeting another guy who could let you down and disappoint you. But, she goes on to tell you that the two of you have so much common with each other because he knows disappointment and rejection too. He is kind and generous and forgiving. You agree to meet him, but you’re not quite sure so you remain cautious. The encounter is planned and the day comes when you get to meet him. He’s everything that your friend said he would be. But you’re not about to commit to someone you just met. Your friend encourages you to hang in there, find out more about him, and just spend some one-on-one time with him. You agree to another “date”. This time, something starts happening inside you. You start to get some emotions you can’t explain. You really, really like him…..a lot.

By now, you've met some of his family members -- and they are warm and welcoming and you like hanging around them, too. But, you’re just not a quick decision maker – especially when you think about a long-term relationship. By now, you can’t stop thinking about him because he seems to be everything you hoped for, dreamed for, and waited for. You spend even more time with him and when you do, you see that he’s a friend that you can talk to about any and everything. He “gets you”. He understands what you mean when you speak and he even knows what you’re thinking before you speak. Then, the day comes when he asks if you’ll be his forever and ever love, and there is no way you could say “no” – he has captured your mind, heart, and soul. You say, “Yes – I believe in you. My life is in you. My hope is in you. You are my beloved and I am yours.”

Honestly, this is MY Love Story. Jesus is my everything -- my hope for today and tomorrow. He never leaves me or forsakes me. And, I assure you, that this could be your Love Story, too!
Indeed, the greatest story ever told is that LOVE STORY – the story about God’s Son who left the portals of heaven to become one of us, first, as a little baby, then grow up and set the pattern for loving and living and serving others, and then to ultimately, die for us so that our Love Story lives on forever. The Bible tells us to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever" Psalm 136:1. "Steadfast love" describes a love that is unconditional and unchanging.

So as we enter into this holiest of seasons that we hear that Love Story over and over again, how should we respond? We can respond like the shepherds did on that first Christmas night, and like the Wise Men when they arrived at their home. They worshiped Him. We can rekindle this romance as we lean in closer to Him and bow our lives to Him in adoration for Who He is and all He has done for us. We can fall in love with Him again and determine to keep the “flames” of that first love we had for Him burning as brightly as the star that announced His coming over 2,000 years ago. Indeed, it is the "Greatest Love Story Ever Told"!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Pay Attention to Those God Nudges

It’s not that I don’t have enough on my plate daily to keep me busy, but when a God nudge comes along; I know I better act on it. Yesterday I started my one half-day a week volunteering at the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital here in Frisco. I watched this hospital being built and every time I drove by it, I sensed a little nudge to be there to love on those precious children. It’s quite the vetting process to go through to be a volunteer in a health facility, as well as the immunizations and training required. My fellow volunteer, Paz, and I were assigned to the surgery area where we were on hand to serve the families while their young ones were in surgery. We also helped sort medical supplies in the surgical area – thus our trendy surgical scrubs!

What blessed me the most about the morning was being teamed up with Paz, a bilingual teacher who gives time to volunteering at the hospital. Right away, our faith connected us as we talked about God’s goodness. I witnessed how God orchestrates sweet divine appointments as my sweet bilingual friend was able to interpret the surgeon for this young child’s Latino grandmother. I could sense a “divine” connection between the two ladies.

While there, I was reminded of my young self at 13-years-old being a Candy Striper volunteer for Baylor Hospital in downtown Dallas. The unique job title represented the candy cane look of the red and white-striped pinafores we wore. We assisted the nurses by serving the patients in basic ways (i.e., taking them flowers and mail, refilling their water jugs, carrying specimens to the lab, etc.).

Maybe it was because I had a very sick daddy and would have to hang out at the hospital with my mom I acquired the love of serving at the hospital. The notion of wanting to be a nurse started way back then. It didn’t happen in the professional sense, but I sure “nursed” some precious loved ones, especially my mom, my sister, dear friends, and my own children. I was put into the throes of nursing as I cared for my husband in our make-shift “home” hospital, giving him an infusion three times a day. I’ll admit my hesitancy to take on such a role that I only witnessed Registered Nurses performing in the hospital. It did seem overwhelming at first with so many sterilizing techniques, flushing the lines, clamping and not clamping, and calculating the drip timing, but like a good student who practices and prepares, I got it down pretty good:6 am – 2 pm – 10 pm. I was “nursing”!

I shared my “nursing” and “volunteering” story to you today to show you how God brings back some of the most incidental moments of our lives for cultivating heart desires and eventual opportunities to give back the blessings of what we’ve received. It’s a matter of staying on point and being present for God’s sweet nudges that lead to our cups being full and overflowing. A friend of mine kept feeling the nudges to assist in hospice care. Today she joyfully gives of herself in such soothing and heartfelt ways to patients and their loved ones. I have another dear friend who was a teacher for many years. Today she teaches religious education at church. Then there’s my friend who played baseball in college and today he uses his abilities to coach boys’ baseball.

Is there somewhere that you could give a few hours out of your week to help others be the best they can be because you care? Maybe God has given you talents and a desire to be a big brother or big sister, a mentor, or a caregiver just because you want to pay back the blessings you were given. Start by being sensitive to God’s little nudges. I promise you – when you step up to bless others…’ll be the recipient of the most blessings.

Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

10,000 Reasons

Yesterday morning I woke up singing “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh, my soul. Worship His Holy Name. Sing like never before, oh my soul, I worship Your Holy Name!” That song's title is “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman. What a way to wake up – blessing and worshipping God’s Holy Name! Immediately I knew this would be the topic for my post for today.

Among my 10,000 reasons to be thankful, I must share with you what happened shortly after I typed this post at about 8 am yesterday. I heard the garbage truck (Thank you, God, I can hear!)! I thought: “Yikes! I didn’t think they’d come today since the holiday was last week!” I ran out the front door to catch them, but too late! I noticed they hadn’t picked up the other side of the street so I quickly ran and pushed my packed-full-of- Thanksgiving garbage bin to my neighbor's side of the street (Thank you, God, for our wonderful Thanksgiving meals!). But then I thought they’d question two bins, so I quickly got in my car (Thank you, God, for my car!) and drove to let them know! Came back home (Thank you, God, for my home!) and pushed the garage remote and NADA! Thank you, God, that I had my door key in hand. I ran into the house and garage and saw the big chain had fallen from the motor. I quickly called my Home Warranty company (Thank you, God, that I purchased a Home Warranty!) and placed the repair with them and they showed up last night to already have it repaired and working great! Thank you, God, because that means only a $45 repair fee! Now, I have more than 10,000 reasons to "Bless the Lord, oh my soul!"

I’m quite sure that whole scenario was why I woke singing that song because God was prepping me for my sudden-out-of-the-blue trash and garage door encounters.

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul” were King David's words as he was commanding his soul (his will, mind, and emotions) to bless the Lord. He was encouraging himself with what he needed to do to rise above his circumstances. Those words from Psalm 103 were Matt Redman’s inspiration for this song. In that chapter, David listed several reasons why his heart was full of worship for God: He forgives our sins, heals our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, crowns us with love and compassion, satisfies our desires and gives righteousness and justice.

I googled Matt Redman and this song, and read what he said to explain it. “If you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there's something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not His. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we're given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion."

I realize we are one week past Thanksgiving today and it would seem that I’ve posted enough about gratitude and thanksgiving, but for “10,000 reasons” and so many more, I was reminded that putting gratitude as my #1 priority, sure keeps us in a gratitude mode -- even when things aren't going the way we had hoped them to go. Gratitude opens the floodgates to so many more reasons to be thankful -- even when a garage door goes haywire! I’m purposing to follow David’s lead in Psalm 103 to talk to my soul more so my "Reasons List" continue to grow in "blessing His Holy Name". How about you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Getting Ready to be Overshadowed

Have you ever felt Holy Spirit’s presence so intensely, that you thought you could reach out and touch Him? That was me yesterday morning. I proceeded with my early morning routine: brushed my teeth, grabbed my mug of water and phone for the text message I’d send to my children later, put the fireplace on and sat in my cozy chair, opened my computer and hit the “post” button on my FB page and my blog.

This morning was very different. I sensed such closeness with the Holy Spirit that it was almost tangible. Maybe it was because I had been pondering the Advent talk I will be giving at my church next Wednesday night because when I awoke, I thought about Mary and the announcement by Gabriel that she would conceive a child and she asked: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” And Gabriel replied "'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will OVERSHADOW you.'" Luke 1:35

Suddenly, I desired to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit too. Suddenly the matters of this world seemed so distant to me. It reminded me of an old song we sang: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.“ Not long after my sweet Holy Spirit time, I was brought back to the reality of my “To Do” list and “How can I get all this done before I leave town next week?” But, like a cowboy throwing his lasso on a steer to wrangle him in, I felt Holy Spirit pulling me back into that “sweet spot”.

Gabriel gave Mary the amazing news that she was going to give birth to the Son of God -- without knowing a man. That wasn't even believable in the natural. We can only imagine the doubt that must have bombarded her mind: "How can I have a baby without a man?” My “How” certainly paled in comparison to Mary’s “How”. When Mary answered the angel back, she didn't say, "I don't see how that can happen." No, Mary was bold. She made a statement of faith. She said, "Be it unto me even as you have said." In other words, "I'm in agreement. Let it happen. If God says I'm highly favored, I believe it. If God says the impossible is going to happen, I believe it." And, my dear FB and blog friends and family, that's the way we need to be when God puts a promise in our hearts. Instead of trying to reason it out, we have to be fully convinced that what He said, He will do.

You may have a "how" in your life right now. You may be thinking, "I believe I'm going to accomplish my dreams, but how am I going to do it?" "How am I going to get well?" "How am I going to overcome this addiction?" What the angel said to Mary is true for all of us today. He said, "Mary, here's how it's going to happen: the power of the Most High is going to come upon you and overshadow you." In other words, God is going to breathe in your direction, and supernatural things are going to happen.

How are you going to get well? The power of the Most High is going to come upon you. How are you going to accomplish your dreams? The Most High God, the Great I Am, the Creator of the universe is going to overshadow you. When God overshadows you, miracles happen. Supernatural opportunities come your way. Family members that were off course will suddenly turn around. Problems that looked permanent will turn out to be only temporary, and you will see miracles come to pass!

Today, just like Mary, let's dig our heels in and do our part. Let's get into agreement with God's Word and receive His promises and obey His commands. Let's get ready for God's Spirit to OVERSHADOW us!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

God’s Wide Open Door

When I lived in Tulsa, I held a weekly Life Group in my home. I’ll never forget the night when one of the gals told us that her job was being discontinued and she was very concerned about her future. While we were encouraging and reminding her of God's faithfulness, I remarked “This situation is no surprise to Him. So trust Him that as one door closes, another door will open." At the same moment I was speaking to her about the open door, the front door of my home gently opened with only the sunlight coming in. (See below photo!) We chose to believe that in our conversation about HIM, we heard His voice, and invited HIM into the door of our hearts.....and, indeed, HE came in to confirm that what we were speaking in faith....was true!

Yes, we got goosebumps and were in awe. Some would say "That was just a coincidence. The door wasn't closed tightly when the last lady came in." But, we said what God's Word says, "As your faith is, so be it unto you." In a matter of days, an open door for a new job appeared for this young woman. Yes, she had to do some “knocking” on doors for that new job, but soon the door opened.

Have you ever felt like you were knocking on God’s door and it just seemed nobody’s home? You know He’s in there. You have His blessed assurance that He is there. You continue to pound away at the door – pleading, begging, seeking, knocking, but the door just doesn’t open.

We've all felt that way. Here we are at the Christmas season when we'd love to give to our family and others but there's just so little or nothing at all to be a giver. You may be looking for a job or a better job. You know how thrilling it is for children at Christmas, which makes you desire to conceive and have a baby even more. You may be suffering from a tormenting illness and the thought of Christmas makes you say "humbug" because you so desire to be freed to embrace the joys of this season. Maybe you just want to experience joy again and truly be able to sing "Joy to the World" with fervor. It’s in these times that our loving Father, on the other side of the door, gently whispers to us “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and listen.” All we can see is the closed door, but God is working all things for our good on the other side of the door. He’s repositioning circumstances and people for an answer to our prayers (our knocking). Very soon that door will swing wide open and He will do a quick work. In the meantime, He’s getting things in order for us.

Are your knuckles red from pounding on heaven’s door? Are you discouraged because no matter how hard you pray, all that you see is a door that’s got a deadbolt on it? I have such good news for you! Remember Jesus walking through the walls to the disciples? He doesn’t even need a door to show up for you. Stop and listen. Be still in His presence and let Him assure you that He is working behind the scenes to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!” (Ephesians 3:20)

Be encouraged by Matthew 7:7 "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

Monday, November 26, 2018

I'm So Glad I'm a Part of the Family of God

Yesterday my post was about being a part of the Family of God and how our Father always has His arms open wide to His nice, and even sometimes naughty, kids. He's ready to invite them to sit at His royal table and feast with Him, along with so many other “royal” benefits. It's ours for the taking. We just accept His invitation to come into the family and then play by His rules which include integrity and honor and when we make mistakes and ask for His forgiveness, He always forgives. He especially asks us to hold to His number one requirement: to love Him and each other as we love ourselves. As one of His adopted kids, I assure you, there is nothing like being part of the Family of God.

Christmas and the New Year are drawing near. Many of us look forward to spending more time with family while others find this holiday season to be an especially painful reminder of people they miss, broken relationships and their deep longing to be surrounded by a loving family. The good news is, as children of God who have been adopted into His royal family, we have an unlimited supply of brothers and sisters! It’s like an old song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither:
“You will notice we say “brother” and “sister” around here;
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Let me tell you about this "family" from personal experience. I grew up in this family because my parents introduced me to the Father, God, and I invited Jesus, His Son, into my heart as a young child. That’s the “orientation” to coming into the family. John 3:16 explains it this way: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son and ALL who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Wow! How’s that for benefits….believing equals eternal life with Him in this family forever and ever!

Growing up in this family, I was around folks that pursued God in their walk and talk and it left an “eternal” impression on me. I wanted to be just like them. I witnessed how this family sticks together. We’re brothers and sisters and when one hurts, everyone hurts and when one has a victory, we all celebrate with them. We met together at church, became part of groups that created fellowship, grew together in learning more about God and His Word, and we were forged together when we locked arms and arms in making it through joyful and tough times.

In this family, there were baby showers where “the sisters” lavished gifts and blessings on the hopeful new parents that would soon welcome their new baby. Then, those same sisters, bearing lots of food for the new parents, brought relief to them when they had added pressure with that new little bundle of joy and lots of sleepless nights. Then there were the brothers in the family who helped another brother out when he had lost his job and they shouldered up to him and gave him encouragement and even helped him find a new job. I witnessed those brothers and sisters caring for my mom and me when my dad passed away. They brought us food and I saw them hugging and loving on my mom and me which brought us so much comfort. Later, I knew that comfort when my brothers and sisters encouraged my husband and me when he became so sick, but our freezer was so full of food that I had to ask them to slow down. I know what it is to have brothers and sisters in the Family of God.

Most recently, I’ve witnessed how the brothers and sisters at my church have come to support and love a precious family going through a major crisis that has resulted in so many needs. Of course, fervent prayer was the first thing we did, then tangible things were done: their home was cleaned, a food chain started, groups got together to go and encourage and support them financially and spiritually, and there have been so many social media posts that offered encouragement and notes assuring continued prayer. And, for me, my brothers and sisters in Christ are my own personal cheerleading team when they follow me on social media and when I speak at ministry events. They keep “pushing” me to be the best “sister” in the family. I strive for that!

I am utterly convinced that the Family of God will stand by you in thousands of ways if you’ll get to know the family, hang out with them, serve with them and do life with them. None of us deserve it and haven’t earned it. We were just born into it. They’ll treat you like royalty, too, because you are! We are. We’re children of the King.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

I’m All Grown Up, But I’m Still a Kid

I embraced every minute of precious family time during Thanksgiving week. My family is right up there at the top of my “gratitude” list. We are a diverse family with diverse interests and diverse ways of life. None of us were cut from the same mold, but we have this one thing in common – we are family. I came from a middle-class family. We didn't have much, but we had all we needed. We knew love, but by no means did we know royalty and wealth, or the social graces that went along with it.

But, then, one day, I came into a royal family -- the Family of God -- not as a result of merit or anything I earned or was born into, but I was adopted into this wonderful Family of God. It was simply because I asked to come in, and I believed the Father of this royal family has a very special Son Who paid a hefty price for me to be welcomed into the family. I didn't have to pay my way in -- I just had to believe in HIS royal family. And, guess what! You have been invited into the FAMILY, too! The invitation goes out to "Whoever believes in HIM....."

There are no adults in the Family of God. Father God only has children. Adults complicate things. They try to figure out what's next, how, why, where and when. Kids just say "Okay!" They just believe. I believed. Stuff happens. No problem. My Father has everything under control. And, He keeps telling us to "Be like children" who just believe.

While doing a lot of my holiday baking, I watched a sweet and tender Hallmark Christmas movie. I’ll admit it. I’m a “Hallmark” junkie – just knowing that the movie is going to end with a sappy, predictable ending, makes me happy. I saw one where two children whose Mom and Dad had died in an automobile accident. Their very wealthy grandfather (who they had never met) asked them to come to visit him at his royal mansion in England. Once they were there, they had all the privileges that their lineage provided -- sitting at the grandfather's table, eating the best of foods, wearing elaborate clothes provided by the grandfather, being served by the maids and butlers. They didn't even know their grandfather before, but all their lives, royalty was waiting for them. But, to live in the grandfather's home, they had to change some of their rough ways. And they did because they wanted to please the grandfather. And when they pleased him, he just kept pouring on the blessings to them.

Once we come into the royal Family of God, we should have a hard time being disobedient children. If we daily make a purpose to NOT disappoint our Heavenly Father, He'll keep pouring His blessings on us. If we abide in Him, and His Word abides in us, then we'll have a hard time messing up. We just don't want to take a chance on disappointing our Father. Still, I have disappointed Him. But when I did, His grace flowed out to me. His nature IS love and grace. It's going to be Christmas in just a few weeks, and if we gave our kids a gift, we would never want them to turn to us and say, "What do I owe you for this?" No, we would simply say to them, "I so love you and want to bless you."
The man in the movie had to discipline those grandkids from time to time for being naughty. And there's also a judgment side to God, but if we obey Him, we'll never see it. There's a judgment side to us, but if our kids obey us, they'll never see that judgment.

Today, our Heavenly Father has His arms open wide to His naughty or nice kids out there. He's ready to bless them. He's ready to invite them to sit at His royal table and feast and dine with Him. It's ours for the taking. Now let's throw our hands up in the air and shout out, "CHOOSE ME!"

1 John 3:1 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him."

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Little Things Can Mean So Much

When itemizing those things we are grateful for, we'll often list things that money affords, like our home, car, food, clothes, electronics, and those things that add to our comfort. Since my washer and dryer are 25+ years old, I thank God each time I get my washing and drying done, But this Thanksgiving week, my gratitude goes way beyond the big “things”. I've come to realize that the little things, that money can't buy, mean so much!

Thanksgiving usually brings families "home". "Home" isn't necessarily the brick and mortar of the home we live in. For example, my oldest grandson and wife, and 2nd oldest grandson didn’t make it to Frisco this year and that’s okay. They were “home” where they were. I've realized "home" is WHERE I AM at the time. Home is Austin, Frisco, Tulsa and anything in between where I "light". Home is family, friends, church, the places where "the little things" are really the big things.

My Frisco family and I and an invited guest had our traditional Thanksgiving meal and celebration on Thursday. My "Austin" family, on their way to Muldrow, OK to celebrate Thanksgiving with Shawntel's family, detoured to Tulsa to see Granny for a couple of hours. Granny is my husband's Mom, and at 96, though she's still sharp-as-a-tack and moving about, we just don't know if it could be the last time, so spending time with her is so important. It’s the little things that mean so much.

Then they traveled to spend time with Shawntel's family where 54 family members gathered at her precious 90-year old grandmother’s home for their traditional Thanksgiving meal and celebration. The little things that are really huge things to a sweet grandmother. Then, they made their way to Frisco where I had Bryson's "traditional" scavenger hunt ready for his birthday that was on November 17th. The four cousins helped him decipher the clues and find the treasure. Yesterday’s hunt won treasures for all of them – including the wax lips. LOL! My traditional day-after-Thanksgiving Waikiki meatballs were on the menu. Today, we’re heading to the Wallace’s for breakfast of huevos rancheros then we'll go to a movie -- another family tradition. We'll have our traditional Mexican food for lunch. It’s the little things that mean so much.

Thanksgiving traditions always included my annual family photo being taken. It was a must do that everyone tolerated and because it meant so much to me -- they always complied. I was excited that my big milestone birthday in August meant I could let the family off the hook for another photo. But, my two sweet girls, without my usual need-to-plead, wrangled up everyone for a quick Thanksgiving photo. They know it’s the little things that mean so much to me.

It won't be long before all these grandkids will be grown up with families of their own, so I realize these little things, little traditions; little intentional, purposeful moments mean so much. Yes, I'm so grateful for the blessings of the simple, little things and family and friends that keep reminding me that the greatest blessings on earth come without a price tag.

How often is it that the BIG things are what stresses us out? Notice that the things that fill our hearts with warmth are things that we didn't have to look far to find. It means learning to live our lives as if everything were a miracle, and being aware of how much we've been given. Gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks, to the abundance of what we already have. Maybe, the best prescription we could take to dispel the common "woe-is-me" attitude is to offer thanksgiving for the "little things".

Friday, November 23, 2018

Is Jesus an Invited Guest at Your Table?

This day after Thanksgiving comes with relaxation for those that poured their hearts and souls into their grand Thanksgiving feast day – preparing for days, baking, cooking, cleaning up – with the best part that makes it all worth it, being so thankful to serve and embrace family time together. We had a special invited guest that joined our Frisco crew, a beautiful single mom that admitted she would be alone on Thanksgiving. Well, we weren’t about to let that happen, so this precious woman joined us. We held to our annual tradition as each one at the table shared what they were thankful for and I could almost see Jesus sitting with us at the table. Scripture says in Psalm 22:3 “God inhabits the praises of His people!” When we are thanking and praising our Lord, He takes a seat at the table with us.

The big day is past now, but I’m still basking in the joys of yesterday. Though Christmas is already in full swing with the hustle and bustle that Black Friday holds for so many, Black Friday will be glorious Friday for me as my Austin family will arrive (after having been with Shawntel’s family in Muldrow, OK) and we’ll have our “Good” Friday Thanksgiving together today. We’ll have more opportunities to give thanks and praises and welcome our Lord Jesus to the table with us.

Yesterday, my scripture reading was about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because the people were missing Him so much. (Luke 19:41-42). He, their greatest gift, had been with them every day, talking with them, feeding them, teaching them, loving them. And they missed Him. They missed Him because He didn’t seem like anything or anyone special. He looked and talked like them. They didn’t fully understand (or agree with) what He said. Many knew Him from childhood. They knew who His parents were, where He grew up, and what He did for a living. Nothing special. Nothing impressive. Our Lord was among them and they didn’t notice Him.

And here’s a very important matter to consider: because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, our Lord visits us in every human person we encounter. Every. Single. Person. Did you miss Him at your dinner table yesterday? You know, the one who served and waited on you after working for days on a meal that is consumed in a matter of minutes? Or did you miss Him in the one who sat at the table and might have been concerned and worried and couldn’t really get into the Thanksgiving conversation? Did you, by chance, get past “passing the sweet potatoes” to take a moment to put your arm around them because you saw Jesus in them. Oh, pray tell, you noticed Him. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

The closer we get to Jesus, the more we’ll recognize Him in both strangers and those who eat at the table with us. The more of Jesus in us actually makes us more aware of His presence in other people. If we truly deeply care about others, as Jesus cared about others, we’ll pattern our lives after Him and He will help us see Him in others and respond to their existence with profound thankfulness (even those who are hardest to love).

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Starts With “Thank You”!

Happy Thanksgiving to All of My Wonderful Facebook Friends and Family. THANK YOU for your encouragement to me and being a bright light that brightens our world with God’s love.

The turkey will soon be in the oven and all the other delicacies will be readied that go along with my family's celebration of this wonderful holiday. THANK YOU, God, for my family! Notice I'm capitalizing "THANK YOU" today! As a child, did you get a tap on your shoulder by a parent when you received a gift, and you heard them whisper "Say, thank you!" Were you one of those parents that had to remind your children to say “Thank you”? Oh, but what pride and joy our parents had when they heard us and we heard our children, out of grateful hearts say "THANK YOU!"....and meant it! I challenge you to think of two more beautiful words.

It’s easy for all of us to breeze through life without stopping to say "Thank you." Whether we’re facing a clerk at the store, a restaurant employee or family member, we can move on quickly instead of pausing to give thanks and show appreciation.

Apparently people moved along quickly in the Bible, too. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when ten men, who had leprosy standing far away, called out to Him for mercy. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. he priest was the one who could issue a life-giving letter of release that indicated they were disease-free and could return to their homes and public life. As they obeyed Jesus’ orders to go, they were healed of their leprosy. Imagine their joy as they saw their skin repair itself and look like new again -- impossible apart from God’s power!

But, only one of the 10 returned and thanked Jesus: “when he saw he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him — and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16). Jesus completely and wonderfully changed 10 lives, but only one came back to say “thank you”.

The nine Jewish men didn’t return to acknowledge the Giver. The most unlikely to return — the Samaritan who knew the least about God — was the one to receive not only a physical healing, but a spiritual one. Jesus said to him in verse 19, “Rise and go; your faith has made you whole.” The power of God cleansed him outwardly in his body AND cleansed him inwardly from sin when he returned to give thanks. Gratitude paved the way for a double blessing: healing for body and soul.

Gratitude also paves the way to blessing in our bodies and souls.
As we celebrate this national day of Thanksgiving, may we learn from those 10 men. May we purposely pause, look that one in the eyes who served us, gave us of themselves in some way or blessed us with something -- and say “THANK YOU!”

Most of all may we ask God for forgiveness for not saying “Thank You.” May we repent of focusing on the things we don’t have, instead of the blessings He has given us. May we be like the one who returned to express gratitude. Thank you, Father God, for saving us, forgiving us, and providing for our needs each day! Thank YOU, Lord, for your goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!