Wednesday, May 23, 2018
No doubt, these graduations bring joys and the immense feeling of accomplishment AND a “Whew! We did it!” said by those who made a huge investment of their time and treasure into this big day. That long-lasting commencement ceremony is over, along with the speeches about pursuing your dreams, trusting yourself, taking risks and embracing change. For many graduates, well, the future is bright and exciting and nothing short of fantastic. For, others, it may be a stretch and a process of figuring out what to do with all this acquired knowledge along with the apparent responsibilities that loom up ahead.
Whether or not we realize it, we all have expectations of how our lives are going to go. We have pictured it time and time again in our heads. Some picture traveling the world while pursuing their dream job. Some picture a white picket fence with four beautiful, well-behaved children and an always-loving husband or wife, while others see themselves owning a Fortune 500 company by the time they turn 25. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing dreams, but first and foremost we must know the importance of including God's plans in our plans.
So, to all you Graduates – here’s my prayer and thoughts for you….”Go out there in boldness knowing that you don't have to be like anyone else. You don't have to do what any other person has done. You are CHOSEN for one life — yours. And the wonderful news? Whatever God CHOOSES for you to do, He will equip you. Being CHOSEN means you will be given all you need. Being CHOSEN means that success is simply obedience and trusting God will do the rest. Being CHOSEN means that you have a great big God as your partner every step of the way. Those who love you will be cheering you on every step, too! The best is yet to be for you and we can't wait to see it unfold.
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. It isn't just words. It's the actual putting forth of our will for the good of another person. It always involves God, because when we will the good of another person, we realize only God is capable of bringing that.
When I was in a store on Valentine’s, I saw this little “Bless YOUR heart” sign and I bought it for ME. Two reasons: 1) After all, it was Valentine’s and since my Sweetheart is in heaven, I knew I wouldn’t be getting another love letter like I received for so many years. I was a little on the wimpy side on that special day, so I encouraged myself with that little “southern girl” statement, and 2) My Mom had coronary heart disease so I wanted that little plaque with those "Bless Your Heart" words to face me while I'm sitting at my office desk that speak blessings over my own heart.
I placed that little plaque by a Certificate of Appreciation I received in April at the conclusion of months of walking out a faith journey with a beautiful young woman in our RCIA classes (discipleship classes). The scripture verse on that certificate is “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:2). The inscription on the certificate says “Because you have served the Lord in His Church through the faithful exercise of your gifts, and because the Body of Christ has been enriched by your faithfulness.” My "heart" was blessed by those words.
A few days ago, that little plaque and that certificate spoke to me more than ever before. I was having one of “those” unexplainable and very recognizable days of wimpiness. Truly I have no good reason to ever be discouraged. I’m way too blessed to ever complain, but sometimes those days just come and I know I can wimpy-along all day there OR, as I did at the store on Valentine’s day, when that wimpiness hits me, I can encourage myself with those words “Bless your heart!” Blessing (encouraging) myself. I remembered King David’s model: “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him… but David ENCOURAGED himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)
Uh – no! I don’t think I’m in any danger of being stoned, but I’m learning to take David’s example into my sometimes-weary-wimpy-heart, and when those times come, I’m going to also encourage myself in the Lord my God! Another scripture of King David was this one in Psalm 103:1 “Bless the LORD, my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
Yes, we can and must bless and encourage ourselves! After all, we are our closest ally and friend to ourselves. Isn’t that the kind of friend we need and want? Bless YOUR hearts, dear friends!
Monday, May 21, 2018
Like the true "romantic" that I've always been, I was glued to the TV to watch every detail of Prince Harry and Meghan's (now, Duke & Duchess of Sussex) wedding. Her simple-appearing Givenchy dress on screen (but I'm sure the intricacies were there because I heard the cost was upwards to $350K), the powerful Gospel choir singing "Stand By Me" (I had goosebumps). Meghan's mother's sweetness and grace as she sat by herself and under such scrutiny, Prince Harry's adoring look at his bride, the beautiful, but stone-wall faces of the Queen and many other guests, the adorable little bridesmaids and pageboys who seemed to be on their best behavior, and the pomp and circumstance of it all. Indeed it was a real life fairy-tale wedding.
But what fired me up with joy and delight was the most unexpected: the fiery, impassioned, and spiritually-charged sermon of Bishop Michael Curry. Oh my goodness, and thanks be to God!! Who would have thought we would be going to CHURCH? He was on a mission! It was estimated that over two billion people around the world watched the wedding and that means over two billion people heard the Good News story and message of Jesus Christ. It was all about LOVE!
Bishop Curry's message was a far cry from what might be seen as a traditional, aristocratic sermon we might expect from a royal wedding. For 15 minutes, he emphasized the power of love. I MUST share some of his sermon: (for all of it, go to: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44186049 )
"Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history. A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I'm talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world. If you don't believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America's Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It's one that says 'There is a balm in Gilead...' a healing balm, something that can make things right. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: 'If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. Oh, that's the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all. He didn't die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He gave up his life, He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world... for us." He continued.....
"That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world. If you don't believe me, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way. Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God's children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God."
Bishop Curry’s sermon was a bold, inspiring example of "Going into ALL the world and preaching the Good News"! It was rich in Christ’s death as the ultimate example of love. I know there are those who opposed such fiery words at a wedding, but I simply prayed that this message of love would be embraced by those of us who need it the most. John said in 1 John 4:7 “Let US love one another”. I LOVE that love. John included himself in that exhortation. He is telling us that everyone is called to love. And actions speak so much louder than words. It’s not enough to just say “I love you”. We really need to actually LOVE..
My cousin posted Bishop Curry's photo and said, "My new hero!" I have to agree. No doubt he was scrutinized for such boldness. I don’t know which side you live on, but as for me, I plan to do my best to err on the side of love. I know it will serve me well as I purpose to sow seeds of love everywhere I go. How about you?
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Pentecost Sunday commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and those in the Upper Room. It occurs 50 days after Easter (10 days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven), recorded in Acts 1:12-2-13. Pentecost fulfills Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-15) and it launches the large-scale spreading of the Gospel. It was after Pentecost and the infilling of the Holy Spirit that Peter (the same one who denied Jesus, the coward, fearful, the impulsive activist) could speak with boldness and courage. Acts 2:41 records that he spoke to the crowd and some 3,000 people were baptized. Now that's what I call POWER!
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He said these words to His disciples ”When the Holy Spirit comes to you, you shall receive POWER." (Acts 1:8) How awesome is that? A couple of days ago I met with a young woman to encourage her as she was going through some pretty tough times. I told her how I weathered many storms of life because of the Holy Spirit's power that helps us successfully make it through this thing called LIFE. And, Holy Spirit gives us the POWER to share the Good News boldly and unafraid. That same power, the power of the Holy Spirit, is for believing and obedient Christians in our generation to turn our world around.
I believe the Holy Spirit, the one Who Jesus said, “I must go away so that the Holy Spirit can come”, is the answer to our actions AND reactions of faith and trust and love and power. How was it possible to be a strong and bold witness of Jesus Christ back in those days of such tyranny and oppression? How is it possible for us to overcome the challenges in our lives? How is it possible to experience John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
It is all possible by acknowledging and living in the Spirit! The moment we received Christ, the Holy Spirit not only came to indwell us, He imparted to us the power to overcome the enemy’s tactics. "Be filled" means to allow the Holy Spirit to produce his attitudes and actions in the life of the believer. We received an amazing gift of the Holy Spirit when we received Christ. In fact – a big bushel of fruit. Galatians 5:22 -- "The Fruit of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control." Just look at what being “filled with the Spirit” provides to us as we acknowledge Holy Spirit in our life.
People ask me: “What’s your secret?” “How can you always be so happy?” It is no secret. It is the natural product of embracing the Holy Spirit’s presence and fellowship that’s called “Living in the Spirit”. Through life's ups and downs, I can tell you I know peace. I know faith. I know comfort because of the Holy Spirit. Walking in dependence upon the power that is there.
Come Holy Spirit! Consume me! Won’t you pray this prayer with me today in celebration of Pentecost Sunday and Holy Spirit that lives in you? It's simply acknowledging His presence and His power that is available today.
“Dear Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, welcome into my life. I know you are living in me, and today I acknowledge that you are my helper, my counselor, my confidant, my comforter and my peace. I ask you to take complete control of my life. I ask for your fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be evident in my life. Lord, I ask that you fill me to overflowing with your precious Holy Spirit – baptize me from the top of my head to the bottom of our feet – the same way you filled those in the Upper Room. I ask you for a radical transformation like the disciples had when they went from fear, anxiety, timidity, and concern to empowered people of love, faith, boldness, and courage. May I receive you fully and completely. I ask this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!!!
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Meghan bent the royal rules a few times during their engagement period, but much of that distinctive style will, no doubt, change once she actually becomes royalty when their wedding vows are said. While eagle-eyeing all this hoopla, I noticed, more than ever, that royalty comes with great responsibility. Meghan had to delete all her social media accounts and she can no longer take selfies. Her nail polish must be “natural looking”. And, she is permitted to pick up her fork at meals only after the queen begins eating. She’s required to learn British terminology.
I’m on stand-by with my DVR today for recording every moment of the grandeur of this ROYAL day. I wish the couple a most blessed marriage and I pray they will continue to support charities and philanthropy in tangible ways. Word has it that they have asked for donations to charities in lieu of wedding gifts.
I can’t help but think of Portugal's Queen Elizabeth, a Spanish princess given in marriage to King Denis of Portugal in the 1200s. She was well known for going to the countryside and taking food to the poor peasant children, but she'd also take her crown with her for the children to put on. As she placed the crown on their heads, she would remind them that regardless of their situation in life, as children of God, they are royalty because they are members of God's royal family. Queen Elizabeth (St. Elizabeth) became known for practicing this custom throughout her life. It was her way of spreading the Gospel message to simply remind us all that we are God's children.
Royalty does come with great responsibility and I’m sure we’ll be hearing and seeing many news stories about the newly married Duke and Duchess for many years to come, but royalty isn’t for only those with royal titles. As previous royal divorces show, marrying Prince Harry doesn't guarantee that Meghan Markle will remain a member of the royal family for life. But here's the best ROYAL news for you and me. When we became a child of God, we entered His royal family for eternity.
We are the King of ALL Kings' children and in His family, we are royalty. Holy Spirit continues to work with us to become stellar examples of what it means to become one of God's children. Holy Spirit constantly urges us to speak a different language from the world. Royalty doesn't speak "commoner" language. Royalty comes with great responsibility. We represent the Royal Family -- God's Family. Our responsibility is to live our lives as examples of God's language of love, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, and peace, as well as sharing all of that with others so that they, too, will know they are also royal children of God.
Friday, May 18, 2018
As, one of those well-fed, cared for, and protected "pampered" sheep, I stop the "I can do" mentality and delightfully rest in knowing "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want."
Thursday, May 17, 2018
In the movie "Risen", it was thrilling to have a visual of what it must have been like after Jesus came back to life. One of my favorite scenes in the movie included Bartholomew, a joy and faith-filled disciple of Christ. He had been found and was being interrogated, with the intention of Bartholomew leading Clavius, a soldier, to where the disciples were hiding out. Clavius said, "I'll kill you now if you don't tell me where His disciples are. TELL ME NOW!" Bartholomew broke into the biggest smile ever as he joyfully responded, “THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!"
I loved that line because WE ARE EVERYWHERE. And, we need to keep reminding ourselves of that, especially when all the negative voices, quarreling factions, undermining and dissentious groups try to convince us that we're a minority and on the losing team. It looked that way in Jesus' time on this earth. But, like the disciples who went on to change the world, we, too are commissioned to change our world, and we continue to respond by going into our world (our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces -- everywhere) to share the good news of love and hope.
Often, it may seem that we're on the losing side, but NOT SO! The resurrection and ascension of Jesus changed everything -- our fears turned into love and our despair into joy. It changed guilty condemnation into a celebration of forgiveness and freedom. It changes anxiety into a hope that goes beyond the grave. There is a massive number of us who are followers of His message. We are EVERYWHERE! It's a message we stake our lives upon. It's a message of undaunted faith and determination to love unconditionally -- even those who oppose us so drastically.
This opposition we face is not new at all. Along the way, Emperors have tried to destroy the message of Jesus Christ. Philosophies have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the Earth with the very blood of those who claimed it. Yet the Good News of Jesus Christ still stands and still goes into the world.
Indeed, WE ARE EVERYWHERE, and it is up to us to change our world. The more we realize the responsibility and mandate of our Lord to be His devoted followers -- living out His ministry in words, actions and deeds, the more His message of love will be perpetuated. Isn't that what should be getting us out of bed each morning? Isn't that what should dictate which side we're on when it comes to loving or hating?
In this photo, Jesus is pointing to you and me, along with His followers and disciples, saying "We will change the world!" So, let's raise our hearts and hands saying "Pick me! I'll go!"
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
1 John 3:18 "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
Monday, May 14, 2018
On Saturday, I went outside to water some plants and I was startled by the fluttering away of a mama dove that had laid two eggs in my fireplace vent outside. I quietly left that area because I wanted her to return to her nest. Then yesterday morning, I was about to clean my BBQ grill when I looked up and there, patiently, peacefully and undisturbed was this mama dove sitting on her soon-to-be-hatched babies. How significant to see such a beautiful wonder of creation on Mother’s Day. That adoring and devoted mama was waiting, anticipating and, obviously from the well-built nest in a cozy spot, preparing for her brood. I kept going outside, and Mama had not moved from her spot. She is on a mission to bring life into this world, unconcerned at all by the bird watchers that would check her out throughout the day -- and especially, when my children and grandchildren came over to power wash my porches right near her..
We, women relate to “nesting”, not only in birds, but when we, as expectant mamas, are getting close to that day when our baby will arrive. We wake up one morning feeling energetic and have the distinct urge to clean and organize our entire house. It's that overwhelming desire to get our home ready for our new baby. Sometimes, that urge is from boredom or frustration from still being pregnant, as well as knowing that the baby’s care is going to take lots of time and energy, and we want everything to be ready before the baby arrives. I recall the excitement and anticipation of that bundle of joy AND I knew the hours of love and care that I was about to give. There would be little time for much else, so, like that mama dove, my "little nest" needed to be just right.
On this Mother’s Day, I was pondering about the thoughts I had before my babies arrived. We already had their names picked out long before their arrival day. I worked tirelessly on their nursery, being sure it all set up and ready to go for the tiny, new occupant. All the gifts of clothes, nighties, and underclothes were washed and folded into the little dresser drawers. The hanging diaper holder was filled and all the tiny items were all organized for the imminent arrival of our baby. I would open those drawers and smell that sweet baby aroma.. My house was clean. My bags, with my baby’s "going home" outfit, was packed and ready to go. With our girl's arrival, we had all the plans made for taking her big brother to Granny & Papa's to stay until we came home with her. Everything was ready for her debut. The excitement was building for the BIG day!
Though I am no longer in that “season” (Thanks be to God!) of nesting because a baby is on the way, I still find myself nesting in times of sweet reflection, peace and quiet, and really pondering God’s goodness and mercy to me. Aw, pondering. Mary, the mother of our Lord, perfected that term – she pondered all those angelic messages in her heart.
This little mama dove reminded me about the importance of "being still" nesting in our Lord. It's a given that He abides in us, but when we spend time refreshing and reviving our relationship with Him, to really know Him, His peace (like the dove) comes over us and all the clamor and activity around us is as nothing. That dove really looked like a decoy -- unshakable and unmovable. Her babies were her preeminent responsibility. Nothing else mattered.
Today some of our precious family from Winnipeg, Canada are coming for a visit. I've prepared for them. I baked and cooked and made sure my house is clean. I even ordered the hockey channel on my TV for watching our Winnipeg Jets play their second game in the Stanley Cup Western Conference finals. In essence, I’m nesting and I’m preparing, waiting, anticipating, and preparing for their arrival. Maybe “nesting” is the mindset we should always have with our relationship with Christ. Peacefully, thinking about what He means to us, being still enough to know His indescribable love for us and preparing, waiting and anticipating, with joyful sense of expectation of His return. Oh, what a DEBUT that will be!
Sunday, May 13, 2018
I left home when I married my husband at such a young age of 17, so there were sure a lot of things I still needed my mother for. Besides washing clothes and cooking tips, I remember the time I wanted to run "back home" to her because of what seemed to be the biggest "spat" EVER with my husband. I'm so glad she wouldn't let me. She reminded me that I HAD left "home", and my new home was with the man I loved and "this little spat would pass". It did. I still needed my mama's wisdom and instruction.
Today, I honor my Grandmom and Mom-in-heaven, my sweet Mother-in-Law, my two daughters and all the beautiful and selfless ladies that "mother" those around them with God's love that is unconditional, kind, tender-hearted, caring and loving. Happy Mother's Day! I hope you have just the most blessed day ever!
Proverbs 31:26 "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
Saturday, May 12, 2018
I don’t know where or who I would be were it not for the mentors in my life from a very EARLY age. Since I was “early” in getting married (at 17) and “early” to have a baby (one year later at 18), I needed all the help I could get. I was so in love, but I was also so insecure and inexperienced when it came to every day challenges and struggles. Quite frankly, inexperienced in life….period. And, each challenge and struggle confirmed my ongoing mental monologue “What in the world am I doing?”
I needed someone older, wiser, experienced and confident to help me navigate some of those never-ending challenges. Someone I could call and ask, "How do you do this?" or "Have you ever experienced that?" without being judged. God was so faithful to give me two strong women who paved the way for me to become a confident wife and mom. Those women were my mother and mother-in-law. How many times did I call them and ask about “this and that”? Since I was the youngest of my friends to get married, I sure couldn’t call those girls for advice. They didn't understand breastfeeding or a baby's high fever. My “moms” were living, breathing gifts from God who were sent to a gal who desperately needed real-life answers and real-life prayer. They gave me both.
Through the years, God was faithful to bring so many other wonderful and wiser Christian women who graciously mentored me. They led me by example. They shared valuable truths on how to be a dedicated wife, manage a career, the must-haves of mothering and most importantly … how to experience an authentic, personal relationship with the Lord.
It’s been my turn now for many years to pay it forward and pray it forward as I have mentored many younger women in my own circle of influence. Some women were older than me and I mentored them in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Some of those gals were searching for Mr. Happily-Ever-After. A few were transitioning from newlywed bliss to marriage-plus-career reality. And others needed sound advice on how to raise their kids while trying to stay sane. And, now, many are widows who need help navigating their life through singleness. Oh the lessons I learned in the process that I was able to share with them what NOT to do and what to do so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did.
In both seasons, being mentored and being a mentor, I’ve learned so much from smart, hard-working, gracious and tenderhearted women, who, just like me, still need godly advice every now and then. What would happen if we embraced each season of life looking to mentor others with the same excitement and tenacity we’d expect from a woman who mentored us?
Mentoring is for each season of life. Maybe you’ve been looking for a godly woman to come alongside you. Start with praying for your soon-to-be mentor. Even though you don’t know her yet, God does. She may be older and wiser and she knows what it is to face life's challenges. Then, be willing to mentor someone else. Your gifts and talents can be used to be a blessing to a woman who’s also longing for a mentoring relationship.
It’s Mother’s Day weekend and what better time to reflect upon those women who imparted life into you – via birthing you in the natural or the spiritual and the everyday course of life. Now…go and pay it forward and pray it forward to some young girl, teenager or woman who needs a loving, caring and devoted mentor. Thank God for their good influence on you. Regardless of your age or stage in life, mentoring is always available to you!
Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, those who have spoken God’s word to you. Think about the impact of their lives, and imitate their faith.”
1 Timothy 4:12 “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Friday, May 11, 2018
Self-Sufficiency - self-supporting, self-reliant, self-sustaining,
"I’ve watched my dear 95-year-old mother-in-law, who has been quite independent for years, now be willing to let go of that self-sufficiency. Since she uses a walker, I offered to carry her purse and she’d reply “I can carry it myself!” Now, she let’s us carry it, and, recently, has even succumbed to allowing us to push her in a wheel chair when she leaves the house. It came with great difficulty to relinquish her independence, but now she gladly allows us to help her out.
Funny how, in this independent mindset that we hold on to for so long, we become almost TOO GOOD at being self-sufficient. I’m guilty as charged. Fortunately, there have been very few things that I couldn’t do myself, especially in this age of being able to google just about anything to DIY (do it yourself). In fact, I just had to use google to figure out how to put a spray tank together so I could spray some of my bushes for insects. Whoa la! Done!
Because of Dr. Google, I can tell my doctor what my health issue is even before he tells me. With google and other sources, I have become a master problem solver. Whenever I face difficulties that seem insurmountable, I stick with it until I find a solution. I am determined to find a way to manage difficulties without needing much help from others or being a burden to anyone else.
Typically, self-sufficiency would be considered an admirable quality to strive for, but now I'm thinking I need to guard myself against becoming too good at it. I don’t want to bother anyone else to have to help me. I feel like I should be capable and strong enough to make things happen and roll with the results without falling apart. I’ll admit it -- it’s been difficult to humble myself to ask for help or guidance, even when I need the support. But, I do have to call in help to pull down my attic stairs which are heavy, high and, clearly, are a hazard. I sure don't want my family to have to deal with a bruised, broken or lacerated Mom/Nana.
Our Heavenly Father longs to have that close relationship with us. He wants to help. He wants to save us from a lot of the mistakes we'll make without His wisdom. He wants us to be dependent on Him. It’s easy to rely on our own strength, our own ability, and our own wisdom — so much so that we no longer reach out to our Father and let Him in to help us. It’s so easy to start to leave Him out of our daily life, decisions and activities, and only run to Him when there’s a big crisis.
Even in the thick of our daily challenges and struggles, God is right there to lay His gentle hand on our shoulder to say “Let Me help you with that.” He’s hoping we will let Him help. He never stops loving us or wanting that relationship with us, even when we feel like we should have it all together by now. I don’t like calling out for help to anyone, but I’m seeing that there are times when I must. In the same way, God is a mere call away when we call upon Him.
Psalm 91:15 “Call on me and I will answer you. I will be with you in trouble. I will deliver you and honor you.”
By the way, I am delighted that I'm NOT so independent that I can yield to my children's wishes this weekend, when they're giving me my Mother's Day present in the form of power washing my patios, garage, driveways and windows. Yes, I'm still a "smart cookie"....I know when to DIY AND when to submit to the joys and blessings of motherhood -- and relinquish my self-sufficient spirit!
Thursday, May 10, 2018
The fact is….I have some opinions. I have some thoughts. I have an overabundance of words that beg to be spoken. And if I’m not careful those words can be too much. Maybe you can relate. Unchecked words that come too fast bring with them a rush of trouble. That’s why it’s important for us to consider some important “neutral” things about our words. You know the things to consider before we shift to DRIVE!
Listening should take precedence over speaking. Honestly, I think a lot of relationship troubles could be solved if we made the commitment to listen more than we speak. Oh my goodness – that’s hard to do – especially when I think my two cents worth will add so much to the conversation. All I can focus on is when I’m going to be able to jump in and say what’s screaming in my brain. Later I realize all that focus on my next words prevented me from really listening to what they were trying to say. Please, dear Lord. Help me to NOT interrupt. Please help me to wait for the true pause in the conversation and help me to REALLY HEAR what the other person was REALLY saying and answer with YOUR words, not mine. "To answer before listening — that is folly and shame." Proverbs 18:13.
"Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:2
What if it's TOO LATE? I already spoke those words. How can I un-speak them? Did I really say that? Did THOSE words actually come out of my mouth? After all, I really do mean it when I prayed the scripture “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 The fact is, once words come out of my mouth I can’t gather them back in. It’s like once you squeeze too much toothpaste out, you can’t get it back into the tube. I can quickly say “I’m sorry.” I can ask for forgiveness. I can attempt to make the wrong right. But I can’t un-speak my words. "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 18:21
If our greatest desires are to honor the Lord with every word we say and interaction we have, it is crucially important to keep in mind these thoughts. “Mouth. Tongue. Flesh. Shut up (literally)! You’re NOT the boss of me or my thoughts and opinions. God is my Boss and He gives me kind, considerate and thoughtful words to say!" That’s what I pray today. How about you?
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
In my post, yesterday, I introduced St Therese of Lisieux who served God in such beautiful, “little ways”. I was amused when I saw this second photo of a St. Therese magnet that's displayed on a refrigerator. It's reminding that family of St. Therese's "little ways" which includes being a baby sitter. I love that. It speaks to my heart, especially in the season I’m in when I no longer give my life 24/7 to a husband and children and not working a 9 to 5 job. In this “3rd act of my play”, I find myself doing many “little things” in many “little ways” to serve God. It’s a sweet way to live one day at a time and serving in the process. One of my “little ways” is this post and blog each day -- just doing my part to spread some good news. Jesus showed us, through His actions, that serving others is important. When we truly understand what Jesus has done for us, we desperately want others to know Him and to find the same joy and hope we have. Telling people is not enough. We must show them. St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and sometimes, use words." In James 2:18, James wrote “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”
And that is where we step up to notice the opportunities we have for living in the "little ways mentality" of SERVING UP JESUS daily! No small deeds should ever be taken for granted: taking out the trash, cleaning up the dinner dishes, baby sitting, giving an encouraging word to a cashier, sending a little note of encouragement to a friend or family member, volunteering at church, cleaning out our closets and attics and taking the unneeded items to a charity or homeless shelter. Just taking a "little" time to LISTEN, without distractions, to those in our life. So many "little ways" that will pay off in such BIG dividends!
More than the BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST accomplishments, I desire to be known as a "little ways” friend, servant, and family member. I desire to be conscious of being Christ’s hands and feet. After all, if I don’t go, who will?
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
A conversation with a friend prompted me to write this post today. We had been talking about the pressures we place on ourselves to BE, DO and HAVE. We find ourselves in a “measuring up” mentality. And, along with the GREAT expectations we put on our own shoulders, we think that God is holding out His yardstick measuring us also. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote: “Who you are is God’s gift to you, but what you make of yourself, is your gift to God.” I love that quote, but inside that quote is “what YOU MAKE of yourself”. That’s pressure no matter how you look at it – especially in the light of pleasing God. After all, HE EXPECTS us to MEASURE UP! (Not!)
I wished that a TV camera had been in on our conversation because I could sense we were unveiling a marvelous “freedom from striving” lesson. The more we talked about God’s expectations for us, the more we realized how much He takes pleasure in us when we are simply living and being in each day, not in the pressure of BIG accomplishments or achieving first place in anything.
We talked about Saint Therese of Lisieux (affectionately known as the “Little Flower”) who was known for her “little ways” of pleasing God and others. St. Therese became a Carmelite nun at the age of 15. With characteristic humility, she wrote in her memoir “Story of A Soul”, about doing everything in life, especially the little things, out of love for God and for our neighbors. She showed so much love for our Lord in answering His call for humility and service that she made the ordinary extraordinary!
Therese saw herself as "the Little Flower of Jesus" because, not like a brilliant rose or elegant lily, she was just like the simple wild flowers in forests and fields, unnoticed by the greater population, yet growing and giving glory to God. This is how she understood herself before the Lord -- blooming where God had planted her. Her "little way" teaches us to do the ordinary things of life with extraordinary love. A smile, a note of encouragement, a phone call, always having a positive word, a simple unnoticed task to brighten the life of another, and so many other simple deeds, done with love. The smallest action, done with love, is more important than great deeds done for personal glory, gratification or simply out of obedience.
Even in prayer, Therese teaches simplicity - talking to God and Jesus in direct, personal and heartfelt ways. She did not like long prayers. She fell asleep during community prayer. She prayed from her heart as a child speaks honestly and trustingly to a parent they love. Therese was faithful to the Gospel of Jesus and the core of His message.
While God probably didn’t call us to be a cloistered nun outside of the realm of competition and achievements, I think that the verse that describes how God measures our ways is best found in Proverbs 3:5,6 “TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, but IN ALL YOUR WAYS, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” God’s measuring stick isn’t a measuring stick at all, it’s a bulldozer that clears the roads for His kids who in all their LITTLE WAYS acknowledge Him.
Monday, May 7, 2018
ENOUGH (in the context of “had enough”): outraged, tired, sick, weary, disappointed, fed up, overwrought, up to here, teed off
We’ve all been there – to the crushing point of exhaustion, when we’ve long stood for an answer to our prayers and it seemed the prayers were hitting ceiling and we were left feeling hopeless and incredibly disappointed. Maybe you’re reading this today and you REALLY relate to those emotions. The sheer monotony of it all is tiring! It sucks the life out of us to try some more, only to be disappointed again. The enemy jerks us around with “you’re not good enough, young enough, smart enough”, “you might as well give up, you’re going to fail again – you’re JUST NOT ENOUGH”. So we declare...."ENOUGH already!" That kind of weariness is a soul fatigue that needs real soul rest.
I get that. Praying and giving and caring for others wasn’t enough. Doing the right thing didn’t even seem to be enough. It’s only when I came to the end of my rope and my own abilities that I realized “I can NEVER be enough, on my own.”
Those thoughts and words are very likely RIGHT ON. We aren’t enough and we don’t have to feel guilty for the frustration. Even Jesus acknowledged in the Garden that He would rather have the cup He was about to drink pass from Him. He understands us and, mercifully, we don’t have to be ENOUGH because our Heavenly Father IS ENOUGH. His love for us is inexhaustible. No matter how much of God’s generous love we experience, there is always more available for the asking. If ever anyone had ENOUGH, it was St. Paul and rather than declaring "ENOUGH!", he gave us the key to survival: "He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Years ago I was a co-narrator for a Jewish Seder Passover Meal at my church. A beautiful prayer, recited during the meal, was the refrain “Dayenu” which translates to “It would have been ENOUGH for us.” Here is some of that prayer:
“God, if you had only created us, it would have been enough for us. If you had only freed us from slavery in Egypt, it would have been enough for us. If you had only given us your wise Law, it would have been enough for us. If you had only fed us with manna, it would have been enough for us. If you had only brought us into the Promised Land, it would have been enough."
The prayer lists many more blessings that God has poured out on His people and concludes: “How much more do we have to be thankful for the manifold and unbounded blessings of the All-Present God!” What a great prayer for us today! No matter how much we realize all that God has done for us, there is always more. Maybe we have been blessed in ways that we haven’t even noticed. Certainly there are still more gifts He has in store for us. There is never a reason to doubt that God wants to give us more, and in fact, is likely orchestrating the presentation of that MORE right now!
Maybe we should come up with our own "Dayenu" list. We should think of the ways our Heavenly Father has provided for us, blessed us, and revealed His love to us. Maybe we should take some time in prayer today to rejoice in His boundless gifts in our life—past, present, and future.
“Lord, if you had only forgiven my sin and removed my guilt, it would have been enough. But You have done so much more. All praise to You, my God of MORE THAN ENOUGH!”
Sunday, May 6, 2018
I remember thinking and saying those words so many times in my life “This isn’t what I (or we) planned!” How well I remember that place of feeling stuck. Our lives were just not going the way we had planned and although it was always the greatest desire of our hearts to trust the Father completely, trusting wasn't easy when our plans were wrecked and our dreams were relinquished to a divine design that we didn't understand.
We knew plenty of scriptures and quotes well that helped us to stay the course. We had "Expect a miracle" signs all over our home. We believed and spoke out “He did it before. He’ll do it again!” “Hold on, my child. Joy comes in the morning!” “When you’ve done all to stand, keep standing!” And I could hear those stories, coming from everywhere, of a plan that isn’t ours, of a God who knows so much better than we do.
Right now, you may be in the middle of trying to figure out what in the world is going on with the plans you made, too. You may be thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that you’re not sure you want any more or for that business start-up investment and “trends” aren’t on your side. You may look over at the empty space next to you in bed, aching for it to be filled with the spouse you thought would be here by now or for the one whose life was cut short. Or maybe your life is everything you hoped it would be, but there’s profound emptiness where contentment should be.
I know how hard it is to be grateful in the midst of uncertainty. It is much easier to look at where we are, line it up with where we thought we would be, and become fearful and frustrated about the differences. But our Heavenly Father knows exactly where we are and exactly where He desires us to be. God is not deaf to our prayers nor blind to our place. His ways are simply better.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
We can be angry that our lives have been disrupted, or we can trust that God is crafting a life for us that is far better than we could ever imagine. One of my favorite lines from the “God’s Not Dead” movie was “It’s not easy, but it’s simple.” I love this quote. It tells us a simple but profound message. Living the life is not always easy, but Christ’s message is simple “Trust me. I’ve got this. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.” Our plans may go awry, and tough times may come unexpectedly, but we can be grateful for a God who loves us enough to wreck our plans when it is for our good and for His glory.
Maybe today you are smack dab in the middle of a story you would NEVER have chosen for yourself. I know I was supposed to share these words and this post today because God nudged me to tell you “You’re on the brink of a miracle. TRUST ME!" He asks us to have the courage to find the beauty in these times. We may not know what He’s doing, but because we love Him, we can trust that it’s good. He's a good, good Father and so are His best plans for us!
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Are you seizing those moments, minutes, days of YOUR life? We are here at this place, and this moment of time, for a specific purpose that God gave for only us to fulfill. Let's be done with just going with the flow.....and let's live ALL IN! Let's look for those moments in this day.....that are over-the-top outrageous, once-in-a-lifetime moments, so that tomorrow, we'll look back and say, "I lived with NO REGRETS!"
Friday, May 4, 2018
Storm: a violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow; tempest, squall, trouble, controversy, unsettledness
Just this week, while outdoors in extremely gusting winds, my friend expressed concern about our weather. She was from the North and moving to Texas was already on her radar screen for the inevitability of tornadoes. My encouragement: “Be smart, stay out of harm’s way, get your heart right with God AND pray!” That’s my recommendation even when there are NO storms.
I checked out her concerns and I found that emergency officials in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas are bracing for the start of what’s historically the most active time of year for tornadoes. In the past three years there were more than 600 tornadoes in April, May and June. Having lived in Oklahoma and Texas, I’ve grown accustomed to preparing for multiple emergency situations happening at once. I remember the crazy hailstorms AND the tornadoes that devastated roofs in my subdivision last year – mine included. Wherever we may live, we must brace ourselves and our homes for uncertain weather conditions.
When the storms of life come, we can hunker down and just wait for them to pass. After all, who wants to go outside when it’s lightning and thundering and the winds are blowing 90 miles an hour? And we can complain about the weather. In the winter – we groan about the cold, and in the summer we whine about the heat. Don’t you love it when you see kids, completely CARE-FREE, bundling all up for winter fun, or running out, dancing and splashing in the rain? And, don’t you love it when little kids play in the summer – not paying any attention to the heat – so much so, that we have to remind them to put on sunscreen?
I’ve figured it out. Life isn’t about being concerned and worried about the storms, waiting for the storms to pass, or the winter or summer to pass – or STUFF that comes our way to pass. It’s about embracing the journey, whatever season it is, or whatever the weather might be -- and even while going through the storms of life. It's about learning how to dance in the rain, in the storms of life and in the seasons of life.
I’ve been through some real downpours in my life, and I’m here to tell you “I survived and, in fact, this gal has become quite the accomplished “dancer”. I know how to bend, and not break; I know how to do the “quick step” and I know how to “slow dance”, and, best of all, I’ve learned to depend on my Dance Partner, and how to follow His “lead”. And in case you’re wondering who my Dance Partner is ----- He’s the ONE Who calms the storms and He’s the one Who created the dance!!
Matthew 7:25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on THE ROCK.”