Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Growing Older is Fun, as Long as You Do It With the Right People

This is my dear friend, Jo Silvey Our birthdays are just a couple of weeks apart so we celebrated and "caught up" yesterday.
Jo has been our family's hair stylist for years along with the many other attributes she has that has blessed our family for a very long time. She drove to Tulsa from Frisco to give my Sweetheart his last haircut on this earth. She opened her home to my kids when they moved to Frisco while waiting to move into their new home. She continues to have a full schedule of clients who come to her home for their hair appointments. We have "widowhood" in common and we are living audaciously in this season of our lives.

We talked about our husbands and the trying times during their illnesses -- hers was lengthier than mine, but she persevered with relentless determination -- caring for him while carrying on her very successful hair salon business.

We talked about this Road of Life being unpredictable despite our most careful planning. Our best-laid plans in life were upended by unexpected changes, which were both challenging and exhilarating. We've come to realize that setbacks, losses of loved ones, illnesses or accidents, broken hearts or troubled souls, are not uncommon occurrences in our lives. On the other hand, at another turn in the road, we have found unanticipated blessings and exciting experiences.

Going through life, we've both confronted setbacks and losses and that's when we heard clichés abounding from others. We're advised to “Ride the waves, get on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride, and roll with the punches,” etc. And though we've complied with all that advice, we are still sensitive and emotional beings, not robots. We've shed tears and wondered if we could make it to the end. And, based on the faith and determination that she and I both have -- no doubt we'll not only make it to the end, but we'll be riding that wave in and yelling "What a ride!"

We know what it is to gather our thoughts, remind ourselves how strong we are and we do overcome. We've both come to appreciate so much good in our lives. She recently took her granddaughter for a graduation trip to Colorado. I just returned from a trip to Austin to see and make momentous times with my grandchildren and returned to make even more memories with these Frisco grandchildren.

We talked "girl talk" -- what we're doing to maintain and sustain good health and fitness habits. That's typical for women of our age. But, most of all we talked about the blessings of God and the "fun" we have celebrated, along with the joy of having the Lord as our companion as we travel on down the Road of Life. He makes the journey fun and He fills our days with sunshine, even on cloudy days.

I’m happy to report that Jo and I both feel that with each passing year, the ordinary feels more extraordinary, simple kindnesses matter more, time with family and cherished loved ones becomes increasingly precious, and life’s small enrichments bring greater contentment to our hearts than any material riches ever could. Now that's what I call FUN!

Psalm 91:16 "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

We Aren’t Looking For a Party; We Are a Party, Just Looking For a Place to Land

Today is my granddaughter’s 17th birthday and, YIKES, she has her own big plans for this day with her friends after church! What happened to a carefully, meticulously, planned party with party favors, a theme-decorated cake, ice cream, and party games, and lots of guests showing up at their house for the party-of-the-year? This year, unlike any year before, she wanted her three closest girlfriends to have their own agenda. We understand that our girl IS the party and she’s sharing it with her besties.

Yesterday, on her birthday eve, was our “family” day of partying. For breakfast, we enjoyed her requests: huevos rancheros, chocolate gravy, biscuits, and bacon! My daughter has perfected the huevos rancheros and Denise has perfected the chocolate gravy. Then she opened her gifts, that were pre-empted by Buddy (their Australian Shepherd) who chased balloons around, barked, jumped up, and popped them. The party was followed by a trip to the Frisco Mercantile to find records for her new record player (from her brother). They chose two of Frank Sinatra’s albums. Gotta’ love those kids that know good music when they hear it! ;-)

Then it was on to her favorite annual tradition location for lunch: Mariposa’s in Neiman Marcus for their yummy chicken broth, egg popovers, and strawberry butter. We couldn’t leave Neiman’s without our photo opts with the mannequins (another annual tradition – with our perfect dates). None of our dates spoke a word to us, but we could talk as much as we wanted without any resistance or interference. LOL!

I look for the “God” messages in the every-day, ordinary of living for my blogs and posts. I’m pretty sure He shows us some of the most memorable times we can have are those centered on the laughter, the traditions, the “You are Special” plate, and the joy and memories we share together in silly little ways. Alexia is our on-site comedian so laughter is a huge benefit of partying with her. When she was getting ready to open the gift from her mom and dad, her mom said, “This is something that I’ve waited a while to give you until you were ready!” Alexia exclaimed, “So, it's a training bra?” Oh, me! Such is life with Lexi. The gift was a beautiful triangle, diamond pendant, and gold necklace. She beamed with excitement and asked, "Is it real gold because I never want to take it off?” It is.

This year changed from other years at Mariposa’s because, rather than a group of women mentors who typically join in for this occasion, Alexia chose her brother and her dad to join us. She wanted those of us who are her mainstay, her armor bearers, her greatest cheerleaders and her sounding boards to be her birthday participants. I love that. There are special friends who are dear to us, but there is nothing like those people that you count on at a moment’s notice, who love you unconditionally and are your rocks when others show up “just for the party”. We are her “lifers” because she knows we are the ones who pray daily for her and who believe God’s best for her.

Yesterday, I realized that “besties” are those who bring the party with them wherever they go. They laugh at your jokes that just maybe aren’t that funny; they listen to that story that you’ve told several times before; they tell you, you look good in spite of the crumbs on your face or stains on your shirt. They are your lifers. I tend to think that we are a lot like Jesus. In Jesus Christ, life is a party. In fact, He joins us at celebrations. He had many occasions where He showed up to party. He performed His first miracle by turning water into wine. He healed and raised people from the dead. At the parties he was at, He provided the food (loaves and fishes) AND the entertainment – He gave them keys to success. Just think of it, as His brothers and sisters, we will continue to party together with Him for all of eternity. But, in the meantime, because He lives in us, the party continues. This day Jesus is asking us all to trust Him and do as He says: “Love, give, be kind, share, be joyful, encourage, and be full of excitement for each day that He holds. He has a party in store for those of us who look for it. We can always live in the joy of Christ. May we always have the courage to celebrate and party in the good times and the tough times, and may we be the “party animals” that carry His love and give out His love wherever we go.

Taking Safety Measures Against the Enemy

Yesterday afternoon, I and other greeters at my church attended a Mandatory Greeter Safety Environment Training. I wasn't sure what that meant until I heard the explanation by the City of Dallas' Police Department's Commander of Strategic Forces, who is a member of our church and is the Coordinator of our church's Safety Ministry. I never knew we had a "Safety Ministry" but I soon learned what that meant.

He spoke to us about the safety measures that the church has been taking for months now and is amping up the Safety Ministry another notch by equipping those of us who are greeters to play a significant role in being vigilant in our Greeters' Ministry to help keep our church and its members safe against enemies.

With compassion, He told us the Police Department receives over 800K "911" calls in a year from people who carry heavy burdens from society, relationships, family, schools, and workplaces. Figuratively, he said, "Everyone carries a backpack full of heavy bricks that represent their struggles and burdens and it is up to us to help lighten their loads. Those of you who are 'Greeters' can do some incredible things with a smile, a 'hello', a 'welcome'. Those simple expressions may be the best thing that has happened to them in a long time. We really do want everyone to be in the church where they will find healing and help,"

He went on to describe our new role, not only as burden-lifters in our warm and welcoming expressions of love to those who enter the church but also to be "assessors", not judging or profiling, but since mental illness has become such a critical public health issue, we need to keep our eyes open for questionable demeanor or someone who is displaying a deep sense of pain, depression or is very emotional.

Now we will be asked to carry a walkie-talkie and if we question someone's demeanor, wearing an out-of-season trench coat, has a disheveled appearance, has signs of mental illness or is carrying a bag or backpack, we should alert our "Safety Ministry" team members who will simply get sets of eyes on them to watch their behavior. We all need to have "situational awareness".
1 Peter 5:8 says: "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."

Initially, I was taken back by the mere notion that anyone would come to a church and pose a threat of any kind to those who are innocently worshipping God, but then, I remembered the schools and churches where indescribable harm came to innocent people The enemy of our souls is a thief and he came to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10) and now, not only in the physical and natural realm do we need to be prepared and vigilant against his tactics, we need to continue to shore up any little chinks and holes in our armor. We need "Safety Ministry" teams in the physical realm and in the spirit realm. Perhaps we need to set up a "Safety Ministry" in our homes and pray these scriptures as our greatest shield of defense:

~ "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?"
Psalm 27:1
~ "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one." 2 Thessalonians 3:3
~ "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
~ "You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32:7
~ "In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Window of Opportunity

I wasn’t planning on returning home to Frisco until today, but I saw the "warnings" about the torrential rain that was soon to hit Austin around noon yesterday and the rains expected to hit Frisco that would go on into today. Knowing it was God's wisdom in that “window of opportunity”, I quickly packed up my things and made my way home before the rains started. I knew what would be best for a safe drive home rather than tackling the rain. I made it home safe and sound with only a minor rain shower once I made it to Dallas.

I couldn’t help but relate my “window of opportunity” in some way to those in the Carolinas who were warned and given an opportunity to get to safety before Hurricane Florence hit land. Thankfully Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, but still, lives were lost, catastrophic flash flooding continues, homes are flooded, millions of people are without power, and hundreds of rescues were required for those who didn’t take advantage of the “window of opportunity” when they could.

It reminds me of the story of the man who had many emergency warnings about the terrible storm and floods headed for his town. People were ordered to evacuate the town, but, one man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.” The neighbors came and pleaded with him to get in their car and escape with them. But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.” As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry, get in my canoe; the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.” The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!” The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop. A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!" But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned. When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?” And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning, a car, a canoe, a motorboat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”

My heart goes out to those precious people and families who are suffering from loss of loved ones', the loss of their home and possessions and who have no idea what they will come home to – if anything at all. I’m certainly not taking the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence lightly for those this morning who feel hopeless.

The message that came to me yesterday was seeking God for wisdom in times of uncertainty. “But those who listen to Me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:33). His voice comes to us in many various ways: a weather report, a friend’s advice, a scripture, a sign on a billboard, and even His still small voice within us. We can take the “I’m just going to wait for God to provide for me. Or, I’m going to just simply pray about it and if it’s to be, it will be.” Or we can be like Noah, in spite of the hair-brained idea it must have been to him and those onlookers to building an ark when it had never rained before – right in the middle of the dry land, he heard God’s voice, and warning and obeyed and built that ark.

Don’t you know that it breaks God’s heart to allow the storms to come our way? As parents, doesn’t it break our hearts when our children encounter storms and though we don't ever like to see our children suffer, sometimes having them cuddle up to us for reassurance and peace, just feels good. Should we think that our Father is care-less about His kids? I believe He could be strategic in allowing some things....that He knows will draw us closer to Him. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

I continue to pray for all those in harm's way today. I pray for our country – on so many levels and above all, I pray that not only does God bless America, but more importantly that America blesses God and turns to Him for “peace in the midst of the storms”.

Friday, September 14, 2018

What Distracts Us From Who is Most Important

While taking my 14-year-old grandson to school yesterday, he asked me whether I had read C.S. Lewis' book, "The Screwtape Letters", as it is his required reading for English this semester. I hadn't, though I have great respect for C.S. Lewis' notoriety as one of the premier writers of his times and, even now, his compelling ability to really make us think deeper and open our minds to the idea that Satan is warring daily to distract us from a deeply committed relationship with God. Brennan was endeavoring to convince me of also reading Lewis' "The Great Divorce" that was his summer required reading. Suddenly, this year, he is captivated by Lewis' writings. I love it!

"The Screwtape Letters' gives the correspondence of the worldly-wise devil and assistant to Satan, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, a novice demon who is in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man (The Patient). Of course, I hadn't read it -- I, who am the "sugar and spice and everything nice" reader by choice. I told him I had judged a student at a Speech & Debate Competition who was performing in the character of Screwtape for his Open Interpretation speech. He was a brilliant actor and in "character" as Screwtape and portrayed him all too well, that I was uncomfortable with the "darkness" he conveyed. I didn't rank him too high because, as a Christian organization, it seemed so foreboding and I suggested, in my notes, that it may be prudent for him to consider the "God" character instead of the "Devil" character.

As I heard Brennan's take on the book and how it had affected him, it made me wish that I had read the book prior to hearing that young man's speech. Brennan explained: "Nana, have you ever been in church and were praising and worshipping God? Your attention was fully on Him, and then the thought comes to you "What should I have for lunch today?"' That is what this book is about -- how the enemy is always distracting us from keeping our attention on God."

"Screwtape tells Wormwood to keep "the patient" from thinking whenever possible since reason will only encourage the patient to accept Christianity with greater fervency. Wormwood should try to prevent the patient from thinking about the history of Christianity, and instead influence the patient to focus excessively on the ugliness and imperfection of his peers and of family, especially his mother.

Brennan's new open mind about a real devil and our REAL GOD made him want to think twice about decisions he makes and the attitudes he has and the way he interacts with others. It made him realize that there is a tug-of-war going on for our souls. John 10:10 says it clearly "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Yesterday, my mind opened a little more to the real possibilities that we are the target of the enemy and if he can devise ways to keep us from the abundant life Christ came to give us, he will. As my Brennan had an "aha" moment with this book and the deeper message within, maybe we should all consider the schemes, plots, strategies and tactical warfare that the enemy of our souls wishes to use against us. Consider it to the point, that he loses, because we are persuaded, convinced, unequivocally on God's side and we will not be persuaded otherwise. "Lord I'm keeping my eyes on you, following you, my Lord!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

What I Learned in our History Class

My 11-year-old grandson and I checked off “completed” by his home-school subjects one-by-one yesterday. I get to be his “substitute” teacher when His mom is away. The best part is I find that I learn as much as he does when we’re “in class”. Some of his curriculum (i.e., American History, geography, and reading) are interwoven in subject matter which ties an era together.

Presently, he is studying the 1850’s to the 1870's which looks closely at our Country during turbulent, violent years between the North and the South that led to the deadly Civil War. We were appalled as we uncomfortably read about slavery and how divided the states were about being pro or anti-slavery. In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed all persons held as slaves in states of the rebellion “forever free” by The Emancipation Proclamation.

We were both moved, as we read the true story of young Harriet Tubman who was born into slavery and finally escaped because of her strong will and courage. “Someday,’ she said, “I’m going to be free.” And, she was. Then, as we read from the book “Across Five Aprils”, I was literally brought to tears when we read this excerpt because it was just so close "to home" today:

Shadrach, with his large eyes grave with sympathy said, "I wonder what the President is thinking." Jethro replied, "I guess Ole’ Abe has troubles over and above any of us." "MR. Lincoln, Jeth.” He would remember the rebuke to the end of his days. He would remember, and he would feel ashamed at the memory, but still, he would wonder. People – smart people, one would suppose since they printed newspapers and drew pictures for them – spoke of the President as “the baboon,” “the ugly, ignorant, backwoods Lincoln,” and other names as vicious and expressive of hate. Under no circumstance would he, Jethro Creighton, show disrespect to the President. “I think a lot of Mr. Lincoln,” he stated in quiet self-defense after a while. “I know you do, Jeth.” “Lots of people don’t. I could name you people that hate him like poison.” “Not only in this neighborhood – not only in the South, either. It seems that people everywhere are criticizing him. The abolitionists hate him as much as the sympathizers of the South do. People blame him for the mistakes of his generals; and they’re just as bitter about his grammar, his appearance, his family.” “I’m no wise enough to measure Mr. Lincoln, Jeth; I just don’t know. But I have a feeling of confidence and faith in him that I can’t always justify. Sometimes I’m angered with him as others are; sometimes I can’t understand him. But somehow my faith in him always comes back.”

I know you must know what I was thinking as I read those words about the divided country and the animosity for its President, and as we all know, President Abraham Lincoln became one of the most beloved presidents of all times. It often feels like we live in the worst times as we daily watch the news of wars, various factions who love, hate, honor, dishonor, protest or pro-act. Since the beginning of time, there has been always been conflict. What do we do with it all in this year of 2018? I like to think that the final lines from that book state where we should be: “Somehow my faith in HIM ((I insert God, here) always comes back.” Placing our trust in the ONE who knew ALL back in the BC and AD, in the 1800’s and now, the 2000’s. He is still overseeing it all, and is at the helm of this great big wonderful, and oftentimes, troubled world.

I don’t know what to make of all the craziness in our world today. But I do know Who holds our todays and tomorrows, and who holds our hands through it all. "History is in-the-making" today for generations to come. Frankly, I want to claim my place in history. I hope to be one who believed in something so strongly that I made a difference. I like to live knowing that this world is not my home, and the history I made was doing the things that mattered on earth because it matters in heaven. Loving, giving, caring, being kind, tender-hearted, morally centered, loving God and my neighbor just might be the way to make history that really matters. Choosing which side of history we'll be on should sure make us want to choose wisely.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Last Word: “And Many More.....”

Are you one of those who has to have the last word? If so, then at the conclusion of singing "Happy Birthday" to someone, you probably added the big finish: “and mannny more!!" I always sing “and many more” under my breath in hopes that my quiet wish might help to safeguard the birthday boy or girl’s longevity. I know it’s not a sure-fire-guarantee because life has taught me we can never be sure of “many more”. So, each and every birthday we have with our loved ones is a gift. I realized this when my sweetheart received the diagnosis that changed his “many mores” to only “one more.”

“No more” is a sad thought, and I suspect if you’re reading this, you understand what I mean. Even though their passing means our loved ones never grow a year older, to those of us who are still here on this side of heaven, their birthday continues, for us, year after year. Though they’re gone, their birthday still belongs to them. And, to us, there’s no such thing as “no more”. We’re still here on this earth to REMEMBER there will be “many mores”. I’m here to tell you – significant days like birthdays, anniversaries and other special celebrations mean we still love our loved ones despite their absence. That’s one of the things I love about FB and seeing posts about loved ones, years past their “going home” date. We are fondly remembering.

All of that explanation is to give justification for celebrating my one man: the one love of my life once again on this, his birthday. Our family celebrates each other’s birthdays by pulling out the “Special Plate” and telling the honoree what they mean to us. I have it out this morning with biscuits, chocolate gravy, bacon, and eggs made for the boys and I. We'll be celebrating Papa and sharing what he meant to us. We're keeping his memory alive. As for me, I’m looking up to heaven and singing "Happy B/D and many more" to my Sweetheart! I'll let you listen in as I say to him:

“My Sweetheart, you are still so loved, honored, respected, and admired by me and all those who knew you. I’m celebrating you and the mark you made on so many lives, the least of whom is ME! I am more today than I could have ever dreamed possible because of you.....your relentless urging, pushing, prodding, and encouraging me to be all I could be. You always made me feel beautiful -- especially when I didn't feel it. When I didn't believe in myself, you believed in me! I am so thankful for the amazing husband, father, and grandfather that you were. You always gave yourself so freely to so many. I will never forget the precious, caring and giving way you treated others. You not only opened the door to them, but you fed them and clothed them and tolerated them and truly gave them the Father's love. You really were a "life enhancer" and a beautiful example, on earth, of Christ's love. There's not enough room here to tell you how much you meant to me, but one thing's for sure, you received your ultimate reward by getting to go on the fast track to heaven. My greatest determination is to be there with you someday and have the ultimate in birthday bashes with you there! And, to all my FB friends and family -- YOU ARE ALL INVITED!!!

By the way, maybe it's time you and your family have special plate days, too. It is sure a confidence builder to those we love! And, maybe it's time to get out the special plate for your loved ones in heaven and reminisce and celebrate how they made a difference in your life. It will keep their memory alive, and bring gratitude back to those who helped make you who you are today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Laying Up Treasures in Heaven

Yesterday, we attended my grandson's "matriculation" ceremony.
I asked, “What does matriculation mean?” Maybe you’d like to know the answer, too! Matriculation is the admission to a group, particularly a school. After some IQ-testing, my grandson passed the exams and was admitted (matriculated) to Regents School of Austin, and yesterday, his dad, mom and I attended the matriculation (orientation) ceremony. At that ceremony for middle school: 7th and 8th graders, I saw things around the gymnasium that gave me the Nana-kind-of-warm-fuzzy-feelings. It started with this scripture boldly displayed on the wall: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)

Then I saw the Latin words, “Coram Deo”, also boldly displayed and I, not being the sharpest tool in the “Latin” toolbox, had to look it up. The phrase, “Coram Deo” means: “in the presence of God" which means living in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God.” Indeed, I sensed that true Presence when we heard the Head of the School of Logic's (that’s the “middle school”) address to us. His message impressed upon us how important it is to get our priorities right.

He read from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-21” “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth where moths and rust can destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But keep on storing up treasures for yourselves in heaven, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

He gave a compelling address to start this school year out with "first things first" in terms of putting our greatest attention on the greatest ONE! He said: “I am trying to impress upon us to make sure we’re treasuring the right thing and that we are setting our affections in the right direction. This year we’re encouraging each other to train our affections and to re-orient our mindsets. What does “orient mean”? “Orient” has to do with direction. “Orient” comes from “oriental” – the East. To “orient ourselves” is to turn in the direction of the East. The sun comes up in the East. Christ is referred to as the “orient” the East, the light of the world. We have the opportunity to help each other to correctly “orient” our lives, our affections and, most importantly, to store up our treasures (our minds, will and emotions) toward Jesus. He is the right direction. How often is our cell phone and what’s on its screen “our treasure”? When Jesus said to Martha "Mary has chosen the right thing", it was because she was facing Jesus and directing her attention to Him. If our treasure is Jesus, then our heart is with Him and our attention is on Him.

I must tell you, I went to that “matriculation”/orientation ceremony and found out what matriculation meant and to be that Nana in the audience who was oohing, aahing and taking photos of her handsome grandson in his tie (required for chapel every Monday), white shirt and khaki slacks. Perhaps I was laying up some treasures on earth, but before I left that ceremony, I got the message that was meant for all of us. To purposefully make my mission laying up treasures in heaven and to face in the right direction – the direction of Jesus where I am more like Mary – doing the right thing instead of my usual hanging out with Martha where busyness and striving is my way-of-life, way too often!

Monday, September 10, 2018

I'm a Fisher-Woman

When my Austin family asked what I wanted for my birthday, I didn’t hem-haw around like I usually do: “Your love is all the gift I want!” But this milestone year, I went in for the jugular: I asked for all 13 of us to be together!” And did they ever comply! Then they asked what the “grandchildren” could give me. Again, I didn’t hesitate. I asked for a “Fishers of Men” bracelet. My heart overflowed last year while at the Sea of Galilee. I was at the Sea of Galilee. I walked where Jesus walked and I was where Jesus called two brothers, Peter and Andrew, from their fishing business to follow Him and become "Fishers of Men".not just fishers of fish. (Matthew 4:18-20) “Fishers of Men” became a Christian term for those who desire to live their lives as devoted followers of Christ and who become "Fishers of Men", too.

I make many references to our family's love for fishing so I had several reasons for desiring that little bracelet: 1) It replicates the snap swivel used for tying the fishing line to the swivels; 2) It is commonly worn by those of us who have attended and served at an ACTS Retreat where “being fishers of men and women” is the underlying theme, and 3) It will continually remind me to strive to be a "fisher of men AND women".

A night of fishing and coming up with empty nets was a sad outcome for those fishermen, but that scene quickly changed when Jesus stepped up and saved the day for them. With His help they caught more fish than their nets could even hold. Peter and Andrew did as they were told; they cast their nets where Jesus directed them to and hauled in a boatload of fish. Their own natural ability wasn’t enough. They needed the Lord’s help to guide them, and with His help,.they caught a boatload!

That is the point for those of us who are passionate about being fishers of men, as well as being partners with God in our everyday walk of life. Sure God wants us to do our part and use the abilities He has given us to realize good outcomes for our efforts, but He also wants us to acknowledge our need for His help, even before we work really hard and come up empty. He wants us to call on him in whatever we are doing.

Maybe we’ve been striving for way too long to get the job done our way and on our own. What if we partnered up with God and took the time to consciously bring Him into our plans at our jobs, in our homes, and in our world? For example, if the children are acting up, ask Him for strength, grace, and patience. If facing a challenging issue at work, ask Him to inspire you and give you wisdom. We can trust that, indeed, “all things are possible” when we rely on Him. And, when we rely on Him, just imagine the boatload of wisdom, understanding, ideas, witty inventions, words to say to someone to encourage them, and everything else He gives us to have a boatload-of-blessing.

I plan on wearing my "Fishers of Men" bracelet every chance I get to remind me of His "call" to follow Him, and to purposely stretch out my faith "net" with this daily post to catch as many of those who are weary, hurting and longing for hope and rescue, and introduce them to the greatest Fisherman of them all. After all – He is right here on my fishing “boat” with me! What does YOUR "fishing" net look like?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

And Let the JUDGING Begin

As in every year since I was a little girl, I'll be watching the Miss America Pageant tonight when it is broadcast live on ABC. I still love getting caught up in the pomp of it all -- seeing those young women vying for scholarships, and finding out who will take home the crown of Miss America 2019. I was always starstruck by those beautiful, smart and talented young women. I'd watch and "judge" from my sofa, choose my favorite, and hope she'd be the winner. With great anticipation, I'd hear the names of the runners-up and hope I had "judged" accurately. What an adrenaline rush it was when I was right and heard Bert Parks sing "There she is...Miss America. There she is....your ideal."

In 1995, my husband and I were cheering so loudly for that adorable redhead from Oklahoma who was radiant, poised, articulate, and confident. We never imagined that just a few years later THAT GIRL, Shawntel Smith, would become "the love of our boy's life"! She won our hearts in the 1996 pageant, and soon the love of our hearts forever!

I understand that those young women are scrutinized to the nth degree by the judges who carry such huge responsibilities. They will determine the results which means dreams coming true for many who will receive sizeable scholarships, and of course, the one crowned Miss America.

"Judging" has become a way of life in our world. I thoroughly enjoy watching "reality shows" that offer talent and sports competitions where judges play a huge role in whether or not the competitors win or lose by just the smallest margin. Speaking of judging and being judged, many of us feel judged daily. People can, and will have opinions, but we should never doubt ourselves. We should have absolute faith in who we are and never should we let someone else's "opinion" become our reality. And neither should we judge others. We don't know their reality either. That cranky cashier's world could be falling apart. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Matthew 7:1

It also may feel like God is judging us, too: He rewards us when we're good and have boatloads of faith, He punishes and disciplines us when we make mistakes. Not at all. God doesn't judge or scrutinize us. He always responds to us in love. What counts to Him is that we come to Him. It's true He rewards those of us who believe and who diligently seek Him. He still loves us even when our faith is weak and we doubt and worry or are afraid. All He asks is for us is to come to Him. He will give Himself to us. No, He doesn't judge us with a scoring system. He is loving and teaching us to be the best we can be -- and He's handing us much more than a crown. In Isaiah 62:3, we read that we ARE a crown...."You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God."

When you're feeling a little disheveled, inadequate and weary from all that is expected of you, just remember WHOSE child you are, and straighten that crown! After all, you are a child of the King!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

He Loves Me. 🌹 He Loves Me Not. 🌹

Blast from the past! Did you ever take a flower (usually a daisy or a rose) and proceed to pluck off one petal at a time and repeat the words “He loves me; He loves me not”? Playing that little game represented the truth between whether that cute boy loved us or not. I don’t know if guys played that game like we girls did, but I just know we were motivated by our longing that he would like us and that little flower game gave us hope.

In my case, when that cute, black haired, brown eyed boy paid me some attention, I started saying “He loves me; He loves me lots!” My hope became a reality!

Now I segue to a love that is a much bigger deal than the attraction we had for that cute guy! God is crazy in love with us. Proof-positive is found in John 3:16 “For GOD SO LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (that’s YOU and ME) believes in Him, will never perish but have eternal life.” Jeremiah 31:3 emphasizes His love, even more, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever!” And, as in that beautiful old song, "The 12th of Never", FOREVER is a long, long time!

Back to that flower game. How often do we play it with God’s love – when we doubt Him and we question His plans for us? It’s like this:
I get a flat tire – He loves me not.
I get a job promotion – He loves me.
I sprained my ankle – He loves me not.
I get a check in the mail I wasn’t expecting – He loves me.
I drop my cell phone and the screen cracks -- He loves me not.
I am given a new cell phone – He loves me.

No matter how our day goes or even how our life goes – no matter the ups and downs – the sweet surprises or the disappointments -- no matter whether we feel sad or glad; God’s love is unconditional (unlike those cute boys who were here today, and gone tomorrow). God is with us. He has plans for us beyond our greatest imaginations. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Let’s throw away those flowers and emphatically believe and know "...how deep, how wide and long is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18).

Friday, September 7, 2018

Because You Deserve to Be Happy

That was the “subject” on my email from Ulta yesterday morning. It jumped out at me. That word, “deserve”, says it all. We live in a self-gratification, self-centered, self-entitlement, and selfie world. I get it! We all want to be happy. Isn’t that the greatest goal in life? I loved Bobby Ferrin’s upbeat, reggae song, “Don’t Worry. Be Happy”. It motivated us to "Be Happy!"

We are hardwired to pursue happiness, so we pursue it, after all, as Ulta’s advertising campaign says: We deserve it!” We don’t have to look far to hear prominent cultural voices, sing and speak about how much they "deserve" their rights, their happiness, and their pleasure. "We’re all about feeling good; We’re all going to die so let’s live it up without regard to morality, being respectful of others or what the consequences of our actions might be. As long as we’re happy – that’s all that matters."

Yesterday morning, my daughter and I were having one of our phone pep talks. We need to record some of those talks because I think we could solve many of the world’s problems if the world would listen to us. We discussed the lack of morality in our world because the world thinks “I deserve happiness, at all costs!” We also talked about how well we sleep at night because of a clear conscience and how happy we are to wake up to freedom from regret of what we did yesterday.

The simple truth is: God REALLY does want His kids to be happy, just like you and I want our children to be happy. God made pleasure because He wants us to be happy. He doesn’t want us shivering in a dark corner, frightened, sad and miserable. He sincerely wants happiness in our lives and He wants to flood our days with a joy that the world can’t even begin to know or take away. This is the God of the Bible. And, no matter what you’ve heard, He’s a joyful and happy God Himself, and He loves nothing more than to make those of us who are chasing happiness to be happy.

This may sound ultra-spiritual but at the heart of Christianity, is the key to happiness. It is happiness through holiness. I can hear some saying now, “There goes Donna giving us the “Jesus Talk” again’. But, I promise you, the way to be happy is found in simple obedience to God and faith in His Son. King David said to God with evident delight AND happiness: "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is the fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

It may appear that being a devoted follower of Christ means we’re floating two inches off the ground if we’re living obediently to His words. But God is infinitely happy Himself and we were made in His image, so “happy” should be our way of life; not because we “deserved it”, but because we are God’s kids so it is a part of our DNA. We can’t help ourselves. It’s because of Whose we are. Obedience to our Father is what makes us happy. Pursuing Him is what brings us freedom and joy.

This way of life allows us to enjoy the world as it is. The gift of physical enjoyment and pleasure comes from Him, not an inebriated version of ourselves or an X-rated movie or one-night-stand. The ability to realize that it’s not that we DESERVE happiness, it’s that our loving and holy Father God created happiness for us. Our hunger for happiness and pleasure are God-given instincts and when placed in the right order, as the children of our King, we never need to worry because we are on the receiving end of an abundance of His unmerited favor.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Are We Listening Well?

Hanging out with my grandchildren always gives me inspiration for my daily blog. When I watched “The Lego Movie” with my youngest grandson, I heard Emmett say, "I think I got it, but just in case, tell me the whole thing again. I wasn't listening."

I think I’m too often like Emmett. Listening well hasn’t always been my strong point. I had (and still do have at times) the tendency to be thinking of a response to someone speaking to me instead of “listening well” to them. There were times when I even cut someone off because I thought I needed to insert my experience into the conversation before they even finished sharing their story with me. Oh my goodness. I apologize to those of you who were the recipients of my not “listening well”.

I had a beloved pastor who always made me (and others) feel like I was the only one in the room when we talked. His eyes were on me. He didn’t let others distract him from listening to me. He listened well.

Have you ever had something really important to say to someone but you saw them texting, knowing full well, you didn’t have their undivided attention and weren’t “listening well” to you? Or maybe someone was trying to talk to you and at the same time you were texting, but you said: "I'm listening....go ahead!" In reality, we weren't listening WELL at all.

Imagine what God must feel like when He’s sending us messages all the time and we’re not listening well to His voice. We’re distracted or preoccupied or just maybe, we don’t even want to listen. You know how our children have selective hearing? You can call out their name over and over and they don’t respond, but if you say something like “Ice Cream”, they’ll come running. Just like our kids, we, too, have selective hearing. We listen to what we love. God is communicating with us all the time. He wants us as we want our kids, to "listen well".

So how do we listen well? We listen well by guarding our hearts. It's easy to be sidetracked, especially when we're so busy. We're running here and there, taking care of business and trying to figure out how to do this or that. God is always speaking to us, but our hearts are distracted as we are being controlled by busyness, stress, and anxiety. How many times did we miss a solution or answer to our prayers because we weren't listening well? We must guard our hearts so that when He speaks....we're tuned in to His frequency and can hear Him loud and clear.

Isn't it time we become respectful of others and we pay attention and “listen well” to them? And, above all, isn’t listening well for God’s voice a sure way to make right decisions? He holds the answers to everything we need to live a victorious life, so why would we allow anything to come between our ears AND His voice? Isn't it time for us to start LISTENING WELL?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

She Needed a Hero So She Became One

A dear friend who is going through some really tough times sent me a private message after I had said to her “You are your own hero -- you + God = courageous and strong, mighty woman of God!” She replied: Is that ok, to be your own hero?” The following helps explain my response to her:.

If ever we needed our sisterhood, we need it today. To have friends that encourage us, cry with us, rejoice with us and pray for us is worth more than silver and gold. I do that a lot on Facebook. When I see friends’ photos of their child’s wedding, I rejoice with them. I celebrate with my friends when they celebrate the accomplishments of their family – the school wins, graduations, awards, baby births, and anniversaries. I also love it when friends are bold enough to ask for prayer.

This photo says “She Needed a Hero, So She Became One!” I’m so proud of my friends and those women I don’t know, who aspire to be strong, resilient, determined, tenacious women and who say “I can do this. I can survive this. I am an overcomer. I am powerful – not because of my own abilities and my own self-talk – but I am powerful because the Greater One lives in me. (1 John 4:4) I am more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)”

I learned very quickly, after I became a widow, that I had a choice to make. I could whine and I could wallow in self-pity because I didn’t have my hero to lean on or give me advice on important decisions, or to repair something around the house. I could have thought “I need a hero to see after me!” If I stayed in that mindset, I would have never realized all I could do on my own. Now I know I am a woman of wisdom. I daily purpose to be powerful, passionate, positive, and, above all – peaceful. Rarely do I call out for help from anyone, but I also know my limitations. So when my daughter asked what I’d like for my birthday and since they live nearby, I was quick to say “Coupons for around-the-house jobs” (see photo). And, that's what they gave me. Yay!! I'll definitely use those coupons!

Honestly, there are times I think about how awesome it would be to have a hero again who I could go to for support and who would give me that extra hug, soothe my troubled soul, and boost me up with encouragement and compliments. But, I know I have God Who is more than enough. He is faithful to me. "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation." Psalm 68:5. He lifts me up with His love. I may be alone, but I’m not lonely. He is for me and encourages me daily with His Word.

Still, there are times when it's up to ME to set me free. It's up to me to apply the band-aids to my body and my spirit. It's up to me to change the channel of "pitiful me" to "powerful me". It's up to me to do what King David did. "When King David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, David encouraged himself in the LORD his God." 1 Samuel 30:6

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother or mother or friend and it’s ME. I never leave me. I never forsake me. I don’t EVER let me beat ME up and I don't let me pity me. I put on my armor, pick up my sword and raise it high. I have come to realize I am my own HERO. Yes…..there are times when we need a HERO......and that's when it's up to us to BECOME ONE

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Statue of Liberty: Welcome Home, You Tired and Weary

My youngest 11-year-old grandson, Bryson, was fit to be tied. He wanted to give his birthday present to me before anyone could give theirs. He was so excited as I opened the special box, padded so nicely with the treasure inside. It was this beautiful Statue of Liberty that he just had to have an engraved plaque added to it. Bryson and his dad went to see Lady Liberty a couple of weeks ago on their annual Dad/Son trip. It really is a precious treasure, now prominent on my fireplace mantle.

It brought back sweet memories of his Papa and me riding the ferry to Ellis Island to see her majesty in breathtaking reality -- she who offered freedom, hope and a new beginning to so many weary travelers from foreign lands years ago. Ellis Island is where the vast majority of immigrants stopped before being allowed into the U.S. I am reminded of Emma Lazarus' quote that is on the statue: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This post isn’t for debating the issue about the illegal immigrants' issue, but to share my own immigration story. In 1986, our family desired to move to Canada. My husband was a natural born Canadian citizen and a legal immigrant to the U.S. For us to move there, it meant that our children and I had to go through a rigorous "legal" process to obtain residency there. We had to complete stacks of documentation, have medical exams, attend interviews and go through a lengthy waiting period before getting to accompany my husband to his "home and native land".

Eventually, we were approved, and so was my mother who moved there with us. She received a Canadian pension as well as her U.S. social security and was blessed with no-cost medical treatments. I was blessed to be employed by the University of Manitoba and to this day, I still receive my Canadian pension. Our children became viable working people there. Our son, Ryan Wuerch became a top-selling realtor at the age of 19. Our daughter, Staci Wallace was Miss Manitoba, competed in the Miss Canada pageant and won the talent portion. She ran a modeling agency for malls and she represented Canada as a soloist in the 1986 Winter Olympics. We were so blessed.
Canada opened its doors to our children and me. We were aliens in a foreign land but were respected and given the rights of other Canadians, as we proved our value in the opportunities that Canada provided to us.

A couple of years ago, I attended a Tulsa Prayer Service for immigrants. Over 500 Latinos were being encouraged in their desires for immigration to the U.S. A grateful Spanish Pastor give his own story as a landed immigrant to the U.S. My heart was touched to see a room filled with people who sincerely desired the freedoms and the opportunities to live here. This pastor said “I know that many of you in this room are waiting for your permit. I know that you are here to work and not here for welfare or a hand-out. Most of you have valuable skills that can benefit this country. You are paying taxes every time you buy a hamburger and a pair of socks here. He urged them to pray for God's help, to save money, educate and prepare themselves for acceptance.

May God bless and answer the prayers of honest people who sincerely desire a safe place to raise their families, where they can do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and a country that welcomes them as viable, contributing citizens.

And God bless all of us who realize that this world is not our final home. We are temporarily here on this earth as strangers and aliens in a foreign land. But, one day, we'll join together and in thunderous applause and cheers of joy and celebration, we'll see the banners and hear those beautiful words “Welcome Home!”

Monday, September 3, 2018

Play the Movie

Since I’m on the road so much, I’ve become an avid audiobook listener. A friend recommended that I listen to Dr. Henry Cloud’s book “9 Things You Simply Must Do….to Succeed in Love and Life”. Dr. Cloud is a Christian psychologist and his audiobook intrigued and inspired me, especially with his principle of “Play the Movie”.

“Playing the Movie,” is the practice of seeing the end before making decisions. It’s like “think before you speak or act”. because the outcome might be good or it can be very, very bad.

Listening to this audiobook, I realized, that on a daily basis, I should be “playing the movie” forward in decisions I’m making, in the “Yes’s or No’s” that I give, the responses that I have when in a conflict, and when making healthy and fitness choices, or not. "Playing the movie" is envisioning the outcome before taking action. It’s also like the law of cause and effect. For example: "I would love to stay up and watch that TV special, but how will it feel tomorrow if I stay up late? Or, "This dress looks great on me, but how will it feel next month when I have to pay the Visa bill?"

What if that individual “played the movie” before he was tempted to steal that item from the store. Maybe "playing the movie" would keep him from making a bad decision that would cause him to go to jail, or even worse, to lose his family and reputation. In the middle of an argument, we may want to blow off steam, but when we "play the movie" we'll ask ourselves "Where will this end up if I say that? Silence is golden. I'll choose silence."

What if that young nursing student who just couldn’t deal with so much studying because she wanted to have more freedom to hang out with her friends, “played the movie”? She saw herself in the movie foregoing “the fun” because she didn’t quit. She saw herself graduating nursing school and scoring that job in a well-known cardiologist’s office and she did so well that she soon became a nurse practitioner and achieved many awards and accolades. Playing that movie would help her to stay the course and press through because it would be worth the sacrifice in the end.

What if we “played the movie” before buying the fishing boat on credit? Maybe the movie showed that they really didn’t have enough time to spend at the lake or the temptations it would be to miss church on the weekends or the extra hours that they would have to work to pay off the boat on credit and the hours away from the family because of those extra hours working?

I'm owning this concept of “playing the movie” because it gives me a reality checkpoint! Just maybe “playing the movie” can be a significant principle that will keep us on track in a positive way and keep us dialed into God's ways that are so much higher than our ways!
Proverbs 21:20-22 “The wise man saves for the future, the foolish man spends whatever he gets. The man who tries to be good, loving and kind finds life, righteousness, and honor.”

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Encourage Others. Encourage Yourself.

I apologize in advance. I said that I wasn’t going to keep harping about my birthday, but the inspirations just keep coming. I was amused when my son turned 50 last year, and at his family celebration, his sons were playfully teasing him about his newfound midlife age of 50. They’d make remarks like “Dad, do you need help getting up the stairs?” While speaking really loud to him “Dad, can you hear me?” It was all in fun, but I remembered those words when I was turning 70. I was prepared to hear similar remarks but was pleasantly surprised that all of my family had such kind and encouraging words for me. Ryan was wearing a shirt on Sunday that said “Sundays” on it. Braden said, “Nana, be so thankful that you know what day of the week it is because Dad has to wear a shirt to remind him!” LOL! The most negative words I heard about me over the weekend were from me. I’d start to say something and lose my train of thought, and I’d say “Well, I’m 70 now. Get used to it.” Then I’d mentally spank myself for speaking negatively about my new age.

The second photo here is of a table with words on it that said: “70 Reasons Why I Love Nana”. (Check out our sweet Bentley photo-bombing!) Each one had written down encouraging words that were typed on cards for the table. Phrases like: “You are always smiling.” “You are so brave and led us parasailing!” “You are a Godly woman that shows us how to chase God!” “You are sooo much fun!” “You believe in me and help me believe in myself!” “You are the best Nana in the world.” “You take care of my animals.” “You are a prayer warrior!” Now, that’s what I call encouragement.

We live in a day and age when everyone wants a coach -- someone to spur them on – someone to be their cheerleader. But, in the meantime, if we don’t have those in our life, we shouldn’t just sit there, pining away because there are no cheerleaders in sight. We need to start being our own coach, cheerleader, and encourager by affirming ourselves: “Good job! Good Girl! Well done! You’ve got this! You nailed it!”

We should be encouragers to each other for sure, but it’s A-Okay to do that for ourselves, too. We need to coach our lips because we know that the power of life and death are in the tongue and we need to be careful with the words we speak to ourselves. We need to coach our head. The Bible talks about taking our thoughts captive. That’s so important, especially when our thoughts are running wild with negativity and worry and concern and we need to lasso them back into captivity. We need to coach our hands. What good does it do to have all the knowledge in our head of what God wants us to do and not do it? So many are looking for someone to rescue them, and with our hands reaching out, we can be the answer to someone’s prayer.

Our words should be filled with blessings -- words that affirm and approve; words that commend and compliment; words that specifically speak love and affection; words that invoke hope and self-confidence; and words that answer pain and disappointment with support and faith. May our words and actions bring light and life to our family and our world today. Let's be encouragers!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Inspiration of a Baked Potato

All it takes is to make myself a baked potato with all the fixin’s to open the memory bank of playing that old game “Hot Potato”! Well, it wasn’t actually playing with a baked potato, but that’s what the game was called when I was a kid. We were in a circle and we tossed around a ball, instead of a potato, but the object was to pretend it was a very HOT potato. It was way too HOT to hold so we wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. Either music was played and stopped or someone was designated to shout out “HOT” and whoever was holding the “potato”….er…ball would be out of the game. It was great for practicing motor skills involving eye-hand coordination and catching.

Of course, I’m going to parallel that game with another real-life scenario for casting our cares off as quickly as we would toss away that baked potato/ball. It’s time for us to play that hot potato game with our worries, concerns, challenges, fears, and any other taunts and smack talk that the enemy is throwing at us. He plays all kinds of mind games with us that makes us think the worst. I’ve learned the best way to “cast off” his lies is to quickly replace them with God's Word just like Jesus did when the enemy was smack-talking Him. Jesus would always come back with the words from scripture "It is written......" And we come back with God's Word as we say "It is written... "I am more than a conqueror. I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. Greater is He Who lives in me than he who lives in the world. I am loved. I am a child of God."

It's time to play offensively against our arch-enemy #1, with the power of God’s Word and His Spirit within us. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxieties on Him (God), because He cares for you.” I love that. Casting is like playing Hot Potato – getting rid of that potato as soon as possible and getting rid of our worries and anxieties by casting them on He Who is our worry-bearer, our care-bearer, and our concerns-bearer.

Anything that causes us anxiety takes a lot of space in our brains. Let’s trade those thoughts for “I am expecting things to turn around for me. I am expecting blessings. I am expecting the answer to my problems. I am expecting God to take over all my concerns. I am expecting good things coming my way. I am a faith-filled, fully devoted follower of Christ, therefore, there is no space in my place for doubt and worry. I can’t help but overcome because the Greater One lives in me and occupies all that space in my brain, in my thoughts, and in my actions. I speak to the enemy “Liar, Liar – pants on fire! I've read the back of the Book and you lose, BIG TIME! I win because I am on the winning team!"