Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wide Eyed Wonder of a Child

I’m still in Austin with my two youngest grandsons and, I’ll admit, I’m holding on to their child-like ways. They still want their Super Brennan and Super Bryson stories, and Bryson still wants to sleep with me and they still pull off some of those imaginary super-hero antics.

I know these days are numbered. Before long, they’ll figure out all that magical stuff is, well, magic. Their older brother, Barrett, was here with the younger brothers at Easter while their Mom and Dad were out of town. He had the responsibility of handling their “usual” early Sunday morning Easter egg hunt before going to church. So, in all innocence, big brother asked Bryson, the youngest, where he’d like him to hide the eggs – “in the front yard or the back?” To Bryson’s utter dismay, he cried “You mean the Easter bunny isn’t real??” Suddenly, the Easter bunny reality and that wide-eyed wonder became teary-eyed disappointment.

Wednesday night, I watched the finale of “America’s Got Talent” and saw two pre-teen girls vie for 1st place. Keep in mind there were extraordinary "adult" talents, but a 12-year old girl who, once-upon-a-time, was shy and awkward, and hid behind her puppets, saw the vision of herself changed and became proficient at her talent of ventriloquism and singing -- so much so that her act won herself $1 million and a show in Las Vegas.

Never have I seen so many gifted children stepping up in their talents and abilities and becoming incredible performers, artists, actors, and musicians as I am today. In fact, last year’s winning act was a young girl who sang and played the fiddle. Those who vote for those kids, realize how extraordinary their talents are at such young ages.

There’s something about children that God wants us to see. We who have lived a few decades know what it is like to have made mistakes and now we tend to be over cautious and leave little room for spontaneity. That’s not the case with children. The future is wide open for them, and they seem to know it. Wide-eyed with wonder, filled with potential, they are ready to try new things and see the possibilities all around them.

Unhindered by the past, they are free to chase after whatever the future holds. That’s the childlike spirit that God wants to give all of us. God doesn’t want any of us to think that we are too old, too wounded, too limited, too whatever. None of us are so bound by our past that God can’t open new doors for us in the future. Our Father has great plans for us. He has a future full of hope laid out for us. Now it’s up to us to run into that future with all the confidence of a little child!

Matthew 18:2-4 “Jesus called a little child to him. He stood the child before the followers. Then he said, “I tell you the truth. You must change and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child.”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TEAM-Work: Together Everyone Accomplishes More

I’m back in Austin with my two youngest grandsons who make for sweet times of board games, helping with homework, helping feed the animals and all the other shenanigans that works Nana’s brain AND body! LOL!

I was helping Bryson with his science homework which included the study of birds, and specifically, pelicans. Instead of working alone, I found out that pelicans work in teams which gives them a better chance at a good meal. As we read some of the characteristics of the pelicans, Bryson exclaimed: “Those pelicans are so annoying. They would not leave.” I knew what he was talking about. He remembered back to when he was just four years old and an invasion of pelicans overtook their boat, which was loaded with the fresh fish they had caught. See the photo here. Notice that Bryson wasn’t letting them boss him around, but those pelicans were there to support each other as a team. I like that. TEAM-work. Together Everyone Accomplishes More.....EXCEPT in the case of a very strong willed boy!!

This photo is one of my all-time favorites. You can tell this pelican was by no means the "boss" of Bryson and he showed it! LOL!

Maybe you've heard your kids or grandkids say "You're not the boss of me!" to a sibling or someone else. But have we ever made that statement to ourselves? Actually, we can, and we should.

”How often do we yield to temptations -- big and small? Instead of eating a few chips, we eat the whole bag. Instead of just a piece of chocolate cake, we go in for a second slice. Instead of walking away from listening to an obscene joke, we laugh with them all. Instead of changing the channel or walking out of a movie when the content is questionable and almost every other word is profane, we just sit there and take it in. Instead of eating nutritiously and getting exercise, we talk ourselves out of it. We then justify it all by saying "I just can't help myself!" But, in reality...we can. It's about Who the Greater One is that lives in us. The Holy Spirit knows what is best for us instead of letting our flesh be in control of us.

I daily desire to choose being on God's side -- endeavoring to be the conqueror over the tactics of the enemy. In fact, I think the most exciting journey in life is simply saying, "God, I want to change. I want to please You. I want to be more like you." I want YOU to be the boss of me.

The good news is's not a process we have to conquer on our own. Our TEAM -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are with us to help us accomplish so much more than we could ever do on our own. God's Spirit in us is our Helper, our Guide, our Comforter and Partner in accomplishing whatever it is we may face. Very soon, we'll start to realize that we have some real authority because of our TEAM. When that happens, every time our flesh tempts us, all we have to do is speak Bryson's words to our flesh "You're not the boss of me!"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Be Sure to Think AND Think Before You Speak

Have you ever said some dumb “something” and so wished you could retract those words, but it was too late? The damage was done. I sincerely wish we had a built-in “pause” button that gave us a delay between what we are thinking and what we are about to speak. Often those hurtful words babble out just too quickly. Just a little “damage control” over our thoughts might have saved us from……damage to someone’s spirit and our relationship with them.

Speaking of “thinking” before we speak that hurts others -- what about the words we speak about ourselves? We need “damage control” over those words, too. I’ve heard people say words so negative about themselves that I want to put my finger to their lips and say "Shh. Don't say that!" They’ll say self-demeaning words like “I’m so stupid", "I just look at a cookie, and I gain weight", "I get a cold this time every year", "I could never do that", "I’ll never be able to afford that", "I’m too old to do that", “I can’t EVER remember names”, etc. And, you know what? They will continue to get what they are saying and thinking.

I am generally an optimistic thinker…AND speaker. I wasn’t born that way, but through conscious effort and repetition, I’ve become that person that sees the glass, not just half full, but FULL. I really do wake up each morning, anticipating a great day, good health and success, good things coming my way and I sincerely believe that I can overcome any difficulty, because of God Who is in me. I consistently pray Psalms 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” and Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD.” It really takes “a village” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, angels, and saints) to help me because the natural inclination, in myself alone, would to be concerned for what this day and tomorrow could hold. Thanks be to God -- my thinking AND speaking have given me such a full, blessed and joy-filled life.

We really can control and change our thoughts and what we speak. It’s like changing the channel on a TV – we see a program we don’t want to watch, so we change the channel. In the same way, when a negative thought comes to us, rather than continuing to think that negative thought….we can change the channel to something good and positive. Those who think themselves a failure or unworthy of success and live in fear of what tomorrow may bring, will encounter closed doors, being late to appointments and other distractions that will keep them from succeeding.

But, if we make a conscious effort to thinking, speaking, writing, reading and watching the good and positive "stuff of life", eventually, it will be second nature for us to shift any negative focus to positive. If we think positively, expect favorable results, then our situations and circumstances will change. If we persevere, we will transform the way our mind thinks, as well as the beautiful things that will start coming our way.

My thoughts for today for you AND me are: "It's a beautiful day. We are loved. We are blessed. We are favored with good and great things coming our way. We have many friends and are making even more friends. We walk into a room and it brightens up just because we entered it. We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us. We are healthy and whole. We are lovers. We are givers. SOMETHING GOOD is going to happen to us today!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Blast From the Past – REDEEMING S&H Green Stamps

Most of you youngsters won't remember S&H Green Stamps, but my peers will remember when we’d receive them at the check-out counter of supermarkets, department stores and gasoline stations. S&H Green Stamps were used as reward programs at merchants from the 1930s to late 1980s. I well remember collecting as many books of 1200 stamps as possible because that would mean a new appliance or household item that we selected from a catalog and REDEEM our books for the item that we worked diligently to get.

REDEEM: to buy back, to get or win back, to free from captivity by payment of a ransom, to release from debt, to remove the obligation of payment, to exchange for something of value.

I heard the story of a young woman who found herself suddenly “un-engaged” three weeks before her engagement pictures were scheduled to be taken. It was too late to cancel the photography session, so she went ahead and had a solo shoot done at Disneyland and the photos were published and went viral. But even more remarkable than the photos, was her attitude. She described the day: "It honestly couldn't have been a more beautiful experience, and I was filled with the peace and comfort that only comes from above. I'm so glad I decided to go through with the photos, and more importantly, I'm so grateful for the smallest acts of daily kindness that make all the difference in a broken world." She REDEEMED her pain for beauty and gratitude.

That story reminded me of my own daughter’s heartbreak in her early 20s after a broken relationship. As difficult that it was for her in that season, all of the tragedy was REDEEMED and used for good because it turned her heart to faith in God and service to others as she established her “Cinderella” ministries. She recorded “Cinderella: Dreams Do Come True” song that touched so many lives. I’ll give you the link at the end of this post. She created the Pledge for Purity program that taught the beauty of chastity before marriage and went across the U.S. and Canada speaking to young people about the beauty of purity. There was further REDEMPTION, as she later wore that gorgeous dress, with the addition of North Carolina’s state flower, the flowering dogwood, in the Mrs. America Pageant as Mrs. North Carolina.

Isaiah 61:3 says, "I will give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." Isn't it beautiful that God says He will give us beauty for ashes? There is a redemption plan here. We give Him our ashes and in return, He gives us His beauty. Everybody has wounds; everybody has ashes--and all kinds of them. Those ashes look like rejection, a job loss, a miscarriage, a divorce, an illness, a loss of a loved one, and as my friends in South Texas -- the loss of a home. Ashes happen every place and to everyone.

In both of the girl's testimonies I mentioned above, it is obvious that tragedy can be REDEEMED for beauty AND I personally know that we grow from our experiences – good and bad. That’s WHY God REDEEMS challenges – by using them to show us our need of Him. In that way, we can count ourselves blessed when we face challenges. Jesus taught us “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” (Matthew 5:3).

Whatever it is that is overwhelming in your life today, gather it all up and put it in a safe place of remembrance, because, I assure you – REDEMPTION Day is coming where you’ll trade it in for beauty. Hold on, my child, joy WILL come in the morning!

Monday, September 18, 2017

What is YOUR Aroma?

On the the way to church, yesterday morning, there was a sweet aroma in my car – a fragrance that brings me to tears. Oh but first before I go there.....I'll tell you what created that lovely aroma. Leading up to Saturday, the 16th, there were 16 days of celebrating my granddaughter's Sweet 16 birthday. Her Mom, Alexia and I started the month with an adventurous trip to Six Flags and now it was my turn to finish out the celebrations on Saturday. We celebrated in Nana/Alexia style!

The first thing on Saturday, I headed to the Wallace home for our final day to begin. After my "legacy" talk that I spoke about yesterday in my post/blog, it was time for Nana’s birthday treasure hunt. Unlike other years when a clue leads to another clue until the BIG treasure is found, this year, there were six clues, each representing a letter in Alexia’s name that sent her to places to look around their home. At each location was a paragraph of "wisdom" for her and the treasure that went with the letter. For example, A = Alexia. "The A in Alexia represents ALEXIA which means “helper and defender of mankind”. Indeed, my sweet girl, God’s anointing is on you and you WILL be helping men, women, boys and girls through your beautiful heart of love. You have the DNA of a warrior and a strong, mighty woman of God with a heart to touch so many with God’s love and power. The A has a treasure ahead! Go find it near your Mom & Dad’s bed. Maybe there’s something there that will remind you of “defending mankind”!"
The A treasure was AMC Theater (that would be a part of our day). She’s a strong warrior already so of course, I knew she wanted to see “Spiderman” yet again. There were other clues, treasures and adventures that made for a very special 16th birthday complete.

After the treasure hunt we headed out for lunch, the movie, and some retail therapy which inspired this day's post/blog. At the mall, we walked by a store that ALWAYS takes me back to my sweetheart and HIS aroma. Maybe this is too much information, but here goes anyway! One of my favorite characteristics about him was he always desired to smell good, so throughout the day, he would splash on a little more cologne. So when Alexia and I were passing by the Abercrombie & Fitch store, Alexia said, “Nana, you want to go in?” She knew my heart. We did. We sprayed his and my favorite -- that wonderful “Fierce” cologne on the little cards. Momentarily, I couldn't hold back the tears. When we got to the car, Alexia put her card in the vent of my air conditioner – thus, the aroma in my car yesterday morning going to and from church.

I breathed in that wonderful aroma and I had precious thoughts about my sweetheart. He's certainly basking in heavenly scents now. And, on this side of heaven, God wants all of us to exude His own sweet aroma to the world.

2 Corinthians 2:14 says this: "But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, He has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go He uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel LIKE A SWEET PERFUME.”

What if our lives sent out an aroma that attracted people to God? Our aroma will either attract others to Him or repel them. The sweet scent of the likeness of Christ can be an irresistible pull toward the Savior. When we walk with God and are imitators of His character (love, joy, peace, kindness, etc.) we will leave behind an aroma that can inspire others to follow. So many need to experience that aroma....and they will, as we continue to "splash on" His fragrance. So....what is YOUR aroma today?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Book-End of Legacy

I've shared before about how our family makes really big deals about each other's birthdays. After all -- that's the day that God presented us to this world for His purpose and pan. It IS a big deal. But on milestone birthdays, it is over-the-top honoring and celebrating. This year it was Alexia Wallace's (my granddaughter) Sweet 16 birthday year. My daughter, Staci, Alexia and I kicked off the month with adventures at Six Flags Over Texas -- the front-side bookend, and yesterday, with Larry and Staci away in Detroit, I was the bookend that finished off the celebrations. Each day leading up to her "16th on the 16th" was marked by a significant word of exhortation to Alexia. There have been family members, friends and mentors who took one of the days to honor our girl and pour into her strategies and principles for success.

I chose LEGACY as my word. In this first photo, is four generations -- my mom, me, Staci and Alexia -- that is legacy. In the second photo, you can see a beautiful shadow box that holds Payton and Alexia's christening clothes. I made Alexia's christening gown. That reminded me of LEGACY that is such a part of her DNA. Alexia is so creative that if she finds an "on sale" pair of pants, skirt or top that she really likes, and is way larger than she needs, she buys it anyway. She would hand-sew the seams to make those items fit perfectly. I was pleased to give her a sewing machine for this birthday gift.

My grandmother and mother sewed. I learned to sew from my mom and in my Home Economics Class in high school. Today, we can shop around and find clothing at far better prices than taking the time to sew, but sewing machines are sure handy for seams, making costumes and home decor' projects. I stopped sewing until my Alexia came along, and I picked up where I left off. I carefully made that christening gown and it represents the love I had and have for her when I see it displayed in their home. Most importantly, it represents the day that her Mom and Dad presented her to God and her church family, like Jesus was presented to God in the temple by His Mom and Dad.

More than talent, trade or personality, the most important value we can pass on to our children is the LEGACY of loving God with all our hearts. These words expressed my heart to Alexia yesterday. I encourage you to pass on the LEGACY of loving God with all their hearts to your children and grandchildren.

"My precious Alexia -- Today is the finale of your Sweet 16 celebrations, but I guarantee you, you will forever be celebrated – each and every day by those who love and adore you on this earth, and even more so, those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on from the grandstands of heaven. You will always be celebrated because of the legacy from your ancestors -- Godly men and women who prayed for you before you ever made your debut on this earth. You come from a long heritage of devoted followers of Christ and they lived this scripture and I, as your Nana, bequeath these words to you to carry on as you have been taught by your loving Mom and Dad. Now it is yours to take up and make them your own for those that you will birth one day -- both biologically and spiritually. How I thank God that you are already living, breathing and experiencing this legacy!

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Debut of Two Girls Into Our World

On this special day, September 16th, I'm celebrating two of my girls. It was actually September 15th when our son asked us to join him and Shawntel's family for a surprise birthday party for her at her home. Her birthday was September 16th, but the party was on the 15th. We had a wonderful time together celebrating this beautiful woman (inside and out), but the party went to a whole new level, when Ryan got down on one knee and proposed to her. We rejoiced when she said "YES"! We knew God brought them together. Three months later they were married.

Larry and Staci were absent from this celebration -- but they had a good excuse. Just after Ryan proposed, we received the call from Larry....."Staci's contractions are just minutes apart." That meant we had to make a quick exit from this fabulous be at another fabulous "debut" party. Our little Alexia was coming into the family as well.
We drove lightning speed from Tulsa to Dallas and though the doctors were telling Staci to "push", she refused to....."My Mom and Dad must be here!" As we were running down the hallway of the hospital our precious little girl started coming. We made it....but not a minute too soon!

Our hearts were full -- our son was engaged to the "love of his life", and Larry and Staci brought another precious treasure to love into this world. And to make it even more special, Ryan and Shawntel drove from Oklahoma to Texas to meet their new little niece on both girls' birth-days. It was a joyous celebration!

So, today, September 16th, I get to celebrate two precious girls that have brought so much sunshine and joy to our family. I can't begin to thank God enough for my Shawntel (aka Angel -- always has been to our family) who is the most devoted and loving wife to Ryan, and incredible mother to our boys. She calls me Mom, which is one of my greatest privileges. We're bonded. We've shared so many blessings and though we're physically miles apart -- when we are back together again, it's as though we were never apart. She will always be MY GIRL. I'm so thankful for her Mom and Dad's love that brought her to this world for all of us to love her.

And, then there's my hilarious, beautiful, talented, loving, granddaughter, Alexia Wallace, who celebrates her 16th birthday today. Where has 16 years gone? It seems just a little while ago that we were rushing to meet her, and now she is becoming a young woman of destiny and purpose that loves God and loves to serve Him with all her heart.

Happy Birthday, Shawntel and Alexia -- my two September 16th GIFTS FROM GOD!

Friday, September 15, 2017

One Moment Can Change Everything.

I was a “single” teenager (age 17), but in one “I now pronounce you husband and wife” moment, I was a married woman.

I was a happily married woman, and in one moment, when my precious husband took his last breath, I became a widow.

Now I know how a single moment can change everything. Now, I put a checkmark in the box beside “widow”. Now, I’m a single when I'm with couples. “Singles” is the Life Group I attend.

On my Sweetheart’s birthday, September 12th, though nearly seven years have passed since his graduation to heaven, I thought about the many “moments” we made special. Indeed, I have come to realize the importance of a moment. A single moment can change everything.

The point I’m making today, is “we only get so many moments”. Our days are numbered. Psalm 39:4,5 “ LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a MOMENT to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

The younger, busier, more occupied with life that we are, the less we consider the “moments” and the less we consider that our days are numbered. I assure you, that changes when we experience a “loss” of that someone that made up the most significant part of our life. That’s why I was inspired for this post/blog today.

Once we realize that our days are numbered, it changes (or should change) how every moment of every day should be valued, appreciated and never taken for granted. It changes how we look at things like stress, money, relationships, the use of our time, disagreements, and what’s REALLY important.

When that reality becomes a major part of our personal value system – we look at life differently. It makes us feel more deeply, love more completely, forgive more readily, overlook others' faults unconditionally, and live life to its fullest more vibrantly.

Recognizing that our days are numbered and a moment is fleeting, it makes us very aware of keeping our priorities on all that matters most. Life is this very moment. We are guaranteed no more and no less.

I suggest we all love deeply, give greatly, laugh freely and live largely. After all, we only get so many moments!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall is Almost Here!

Fall is Just Around the Corner
Yesterday, the cooler temperatures made for a brisk, refreshing morning walk. I had my peppy, jubilant face on and I’d exclaim to other walkers “Good morning! Isn’t this a gorgeous morning?” I sensed I was being powered by a heart of gratitude. I turned a “routine” walk into a charged-up expression of joy. I became very aware of so many reasons to be thankful.

I noticed a beautiful, stately cat sitting in a position of “king on the mountain”, observing everything like a watchman over his domain. Immediately that made me think about My Heavenly Father Who keeps a watch over me….and you. Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” I breathed in that morning, crisp air. The fact is….I COULD breathe without devices to help me breathe. I was walking – that was a huge blessing, because since I broke two toes, it hurt too much to wear closed shoes. The day before yesterday, I was having an irritated, scratchy throat. Yesterday morning, the sore throat was gone. I heard dogs barking (they like to be ferocious watch dogs inside those protected fences, but I’m sure they’re all bark and no bite). The fact was, I COULD hear them barking. I saw gorgeous scenes – sunflowers galore, and a single yellow rose growing on a rose bush. I always like to think that’s my sweetheart reminding me of our forever love (yellow roses were our favorite). Most importantly, I COULD see. Psalm 107:1 says "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever."

Fall/Autumn really is my favorite time of the year. I sense, just around the corner, the leaves will begin turning into their gorgeous colors and soon we'll be able to turn up the thermostat in our homes. We'll start thinking about our families gathering together, and all the other beautiful symbols of this upcoming season.

The most beautiful part of this upcoming Fall season is that attitude of gratitude that comes along with it. I was lavishing in it yesterday. And that gratitude should include thanking God for the season He has us in – right now.

Every day is a gift, and whether that day includes joy, happiness, peace and comfort or whether it's stress-filled and challenging -- we know it's a part of this season that God has us in -- and in this season God is working ALL of the season for our good. Regardless of what season we are in, let's savor everything that it holds -- because THE ONE who controls the seasons, is THE ONE who will carry us through each one. So, let’s turn up the volume on gratitude. Wake up that heart of gratitude and let’s amp up our bodies, souls and spirits to the goodness of God, the blessings He’s given us and our todays and tomorrows that are in His hands. Happy Fall, Ya’ll!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shine, Baby, Shine

Just look at that gorgeous “Full Corn Moon”. I am by no means a student of the skies, but I’ll admit that I can sure get taken by a clear night sky with a full moon. That moon led me to google it to see if it was a special moon. Sure enough, it was the “Full Corn Moon”. Usually it’s called the Harvest Moon, but this year that name is reserved for October’s full moon. That’s because the Harvest Moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox (seasons opposite the equator), which occurs on September 22nd this year (the first day of Fall). Looking up to the night sky and seeing how the stars and moon are so perfectly aligned, brings calm and comfort, especially when we consider all that is going on here on planet Earth. Maybe we SHOULD be looking up more often so that we reflect what we're looking at -- lights that brighten up the dark.

Isn’t it interesting that a brilliant moon, lighting up the entire night, is actually getting its light from the sun? It is totally dependent on the sun for that radiant light. I can’t help but think of how our relationship with our Creator is the same way. We are dependent on Him for our light. He is our bright light and we are made to reflect His light.

Our world may seem very dark right now -- especially if we watch a lot of world news. Oh, but there IS HOPE! May we remember that wherever there is darkness, there is also the brightest LIGHT of Christ. He pierced the darkness forever. He is THE LIGHT that will never fade and will never be overcome.
John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Instead of stumbling around in the darkness, we have the light of Christ as our guide. Wherever our path takes us today, it is lit up brightly.

Christ is our ultimate LIGHT source, and we are called to reflect His light and to shine, Baby, shine. We don’t shine on our own. John 8:12 says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We are called to be the people who reflect God’s light in the darkness of this world. This hurting world needs to know His light. Where there is pain and suffering and questions about tomorrow, the only one constant is that of our LIGHT.

May God use us to be a blessing during these perilous times. Some of us can give financially or in some other tangible way. Some of us can go to places of devastation to help and serve. All of us can pray for the sun to shine again for those who need that Light the most. What a beautiful reflection you and I can be to a hurting world. May we use the opportunities He gives us to shine His light wherever we go. May His love and grace shine through us. May we shine with our words and our actions.

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

Let's remember . . . darkness cannot survive where there is light.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

To Everything, There is a Season

On Sunday, I attended church in cool, Fall-like weather. In Florida, churches were closed because of Hurricane Irma fast approaching. I barbecued outdoors and served my family dinner and special cake for Alexia's 10th day leading up to her Sweet 16. In Florida, many families were dispersed to shelters, hunkered down in their homes or stayed with friends or families further North. On Sunday night, I watched the Dallas Cowboys play and beat the New York Giants (Yay) in between watching the 2018 Miss America Pageant where my kids, Ryan, Shawntel (1996 Miss America) and their two youngest boys were celebrating that wonderful organization that provides such outstanding scholarships for young women. I’ll admit my conscience was disturbed as I was having such a beautiful day, while people in storm areas didn’t even know if they’d have a home to go home to the next day, or if they did, they didn’t know when their electricity would be back on or have access to running water.

King Solomon (son of King David) wrote these words in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
~ a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
~ a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
~ a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
~ a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
~ a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
~ a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
~ a time to tear, and a time to sew; time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
~ a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

That list represents the seasons and the important matters of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain. But, all of them are necessary for us to learn, grow, and be resilient and determined to press through or coast through “the seasons”. Their appearance is not by accident. If we look closely enough, each experience reveals a loving, divine purpose that we can learn to trust God more.

I share this with you from experience. I’ve experienced most all of those seasons that King Solomon referred to, especially “a time to be born, and a time to die” Today marks the birthday of my precious husband. . I enjoyed many seasons with him before his graduation day to heaven. There were times of weeping, and there were times of laughing. I laugh a lot these days. My time for weeping was over. There was a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I know it’s difficult to fathom any good that can come out of the devastation and heartbreak that has been experienced in the recent hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. We prayed for the Lord to push this storm away from land and out into the sea, but instead it ravaged so many homes and businesses.

I pray each day for God's protection over my family and nation. I'm sure you do the same. But, when our prayers seem unanswered, how can we continue trusting the One to whom we pray? First of all, it's when our prayers seem unanswered that we MOST NEED to trust Him.

Today it may not feel like there is much hope on the horizon for an expeditious way out of our circumstances. The passage from here to there may seem like a dark and endless tunnel, but I assure you, one day, we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll realize the gifts we received during these days. If we remember that there is a gift in every crisis or challenge -- in every transition of life -- we will be able to go with the flow more easily. As we discover the gift in every season, we learn to trust that loving, divine purpose behind it. Then the current of life can carry us off to new adventures, more rewarding and exciting than any we may have chosen on our own.

Yesterday I spoke about “The Eye of the Storm”. If we respond to each storm and each season from the “eye” of God's presence within, where perfect peace and wisdom dwell, we will emerge even stronger, wiser, and freer than before. We may even morph into a beautiful, free butterfly for the first time because of the inner workings of God in our lives. Lord, please give us grace for every season so we can spread our wings and fly!

Monday, September 11, 2017

In the Eye of the Storm

It has been said that music brings a soothing, healing effect to those in pain or in stress or crisis. Kari Jobe's song, "Healer" soothed my sweetheart's racked-with-pain-body as we played it over and over for him. That's why I chose "Amazing Grace" and "It is Well With My Soul" to post about over the last two days. I know God was giving me those songs to not only inspire me for the tough times, but also those of you that needed an encouraging word that could take you through to tomorrow.

I grew up in church singing hymns, of which many were written and composed during the most perilous and painful times. Indeed the sound of music has brought such healing and calm to me when I needed it most.

While watching the progression of Irma on the news yesterday, I kept hearing them talk about the "eye of the storm" -- that period of time during a storm when it becomes calm. And, whether things get better or worse after it, we know our anchor is God and His love and peace surrounds the eye of the storm. It reminded me of this more recent recorded song that has blessed me so much.

May the words encourage those of you who are facing storms today -- literally AND figuratively -- with the calmness of knowing....God is in control. The YouTube link is at the end of my post.

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control.
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul.
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.

When the solid ground is falling out from underneath my feet.
Between the black skies, and my red eyes, I can barely see.
When I realize I've been sold out by my friends and my family,
I can feel the rain reminding me.....

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me , in the eye of the storm.

When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I'm runnin' out of faith.
I see the future I picture slowly fade away.
And when the tears of pain and heartache,
Are pouring down my face,
I find my peace in Jesus' name.

In the eye of the storm , You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul.
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn.
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm

When the test comes in and the doctor says
I've only got a few months left.
It's like a bitter pill I'm swallowing, I can barely take a breath.
And when addiction steals my baby girl,
And there's nothing I can do
My only hope is to trust You, I trust You, Lord

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Prepare for the Worst; Pray for the Best"

Those are words we've continued to hear during the anticipation and preparation for Hurricane Irma as it "barrels toward Florida". At 6:30 am, Florida time, I'm watching Fox News and I'm thankful to hear "we're praying" over and over. So many people huddled up in their homes, storm shelters, packed airports with all flights grounded, and many evacuated to safer places. Dear God, we pray for all those who don't know what today or tomorrow holds. May they call out to You, Who knows, for mercy and strength and may "It Be Well With Their Souls".

"It Is Well With My Soul" is a hymn written by Haratio Spafford, that I've sung during some of my own darkest hours. It tells me through my tears, God is the only ONE that sees the beginning from the end and that I must stand, though the pain seems unbearable. I know God will somehow make a blessing come out of any tragedy I might find myself in because out of the ashes and pain, I can say “Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Spafford a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a loving family — a wife, Anna, and five children, were no strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died from pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, in God's mercy, the business flourished.

On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford (Anna) and their four daughters. Haratio would be joining his family a few days later. Four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the ship collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with them and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the ship slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers, including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted Anna floating on a piece of the wreckage. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Horatio booked passage on the next available ship and sailed to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.

According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born later after the tragedy, Spafford wrote this anthem ,“It Is Well With My Soul”, while on this journey. Can you imagine the broken heart of a loving father who found his solace and comfort in God and was able to pen it so that you and I can rise out of our darkest hours to sing along with him, "It is well with my soul."

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul

PSALM 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."

We’ve heard the quote “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Tragedy can strike when we least expect it. Some crumble during suffering while others triumph over tragedy. Somehow they become better, not bitter; they rise to the occasion of hope and faith and without question, they recover much faster than others.

We’ve heard the quote “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” I'm praying for tough people this morning and I pray they triumph over whatever comes their way today. Oh how I pray that during these difficult times, God will draw especially close to them. May these experiences with our all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father, teach us all that nothing is worth more than our relationship with Him. May God’s nearness be the most precious thing to them. Spafford knew this -- he knew soul-wellness—even in the midst of heartbreak. I pray that Floridians and all who face a crisis today come to know that Christ is WITH them and strengthens them. We we all sing the anthem of “It is Well With My Soul” today.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Amazing Grace -- How Sweet the Sound

I turned on my TV first thing yesterday morning and the top story was an 8.1 earthquake had struck Mexico in the night, leaving one million people without power. Mexico's president called it the strongest quake his country had seen in a century. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma is coming -- the second-strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. And to make matters worse, Hurricane Jose is strengthening and threatens islands devastated by Irma. LORD, HAVE MERCY!!!

Just after I had seen that news, I started my morning readings in Isaiah 43 and these words came alive. "Should you pass through the waters, I shall be with you." God is with us. It is His voice that I hear saying, "You need Me!" And Jeremiah 29:13 says "If you will seek Me, you will find Me."

Whoever you are, no matter what faith you have, or have not, you have undoubtedly heard the song, "Amazing Grace". You probably even know some of the words and can sing along.
The song was written by a former slave trader, John Newton. His early days as a philanderer in the British navy to his conversion of faith and taking up the abolitionist cause is the basis for the song.

While Newton was serving on a slave ship, the ship was caught in a horrendous storm off the coast of Ireland and almost sank. Newton awoke in the middle of the night and, as the ship filled with water, called out to God. The cargo shifted and stopped up the hole, and the ship drifted to safety. Newton took this as a sign from the Almighty and marked it as his conversion to Christianity. The date was March 10, 1748, an anniversary he celebrated for the rest of his life.

After returning to England, Newton and his wife, dramatically confronted the Prince of Wales and urged him to abolish the cruel slavery practice. In 1764, he was ordained as an Anglican priest and wrote 280 hymns to accompany his services. He wrote the words for “Amazing Grace” in 1772. He later went on to renounce his former slaving profession and wrote a pamphlet that described the horrific conditions on slave ships and apologized for waiting so long to stand up for what was right. Under the leadership of William Wilberforce, the English civil government outlawed slavery in Great Britain in 1807 and Newton lived to see it, dying in December of that year.

John Newton had some glitches in his life. He was a philanderer and a slave trader. St. Paul had some glitches. He was a Christian persecutor. King David was an adulterer and murderer. St. Peter was a coward and denied Christ. The Bible is full of those who had glitches. We all have glitches -- maybe that come from a dysfunctional family tree, but God uses those glitches to turn us into radical followers of Christ that when the storms come and the ships of our lives nearly sink, we STAND. And, we not only stand, but we become those who sing the loudest and most heartfelt -- "AMAZING GRACE, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but NOW I SEE!" I pray for that AMAZING GRACE to all those facing storms of life and heart today.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Doing Our Best to Stay in Peace

Watching the news report of another devastating hurricane approaching the U.S. coasts -- I continue to pray for divine intervention for those precious souls who are evacuating and have no idea what they will come home to – if anything at all.

Last night my church held a Holy Hour to pray for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and for those in the path of Hurricane Irma. It sure made my heart glad to know that we were a united front, pounding on heaven’s door with prayers of intercession for our brothers and sisters in harm’s way. Many lives have been turned upside down and inside out….literally. I can only imagine how they long for peace and the very least we can do is to pray and PRAY HARD. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

While in prayer, this old song came to me:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of His glory and grace.

That sounds like it’s taking all this devastation too lightly, but on the other hand, that’s what we must do – we put the spot light on God’s grace and keep our eyes focused on He who is the essence of peace.

No question – it’s a work-out to strive for peace at all times and especially at times when there are families displaced by war, little children on streets begging for something to eat, out of control fires ravaging homes and families…..and now these hurricanes. Doing our best to stay in peace, regardless of the natural form of storms, as well as the storms of the soul that rage (and I’ve had many) must be our greatest determination.

Isaiah 26:3 says “Him I will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on ME!” I know the world's peace depends on calm seas, favorable circumstances, getting our way, things going as expected, with very few challenges. That sounds so good, but as soon as the storm clouds start rolling in (literally and figuratively), we tend to go the way of anxiety and concern.

Here's the peace I know well -- the peace Jesus gives. That peace helps me face circumstances with a quiet confidence that guides me -- not contingent on what's going on around me, but what's inside me -- better yet, WHO'S inside me. Jesus said, "Peace, I give you -- my peace I give you -- not as the world gives I you! Let not your heart be troubled." John 14:27

Here I am, this morning, all safe and sound in my home in Frisco, TX -- my needs are met. I’m comfortable and secure. But, I could be here, and not know Him -- and be completely lost and hopeless -- longing for inner peace and rest in my soul. How grateful I am that when I searched, I found that safe place in the person of Jesus Christ, and what a difference it has made in the many storms I’ve encountered.

Don’t you know that it breaks God’s heart to allow the storms to come? 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 draws us closer to Him. “ Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8.

I continue to 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”.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This is Your Life! What Does it Look Like?

At the Bible Study I attend, a gal said, “I wonder if God videos our lives and one day, when we get to heaven, we’ll see the video and then be able to thank all those who influenced and encouraged us? Another gal, said “And what about the video that you’ll be in of someone you encouraged and helped?”

That resonated with me. Every day we cross paths with many people and there may very well be playbacks in heaven of those we walked past, or were so busy on our phones – we didn’t notice them. On the other hand, we’ll get to see the ones we took the time to befriend; those we took meals to; those we may have encouraged and invited them to go to church with us.

My Mom didn’t have to have a video tape played of those she helped. It played out LIVE for her on her 70th birthday when we surprised her with a “This is Your Life” birthday party. “This is Your Life” was a “Reality” TV Show back in the 50s to the 70s. It was originally hosted by its creator and producer, Ralph Edwards. In the program, the host would surprise guests and then take them through a retrospective of their lives in front of an audience, with "surprise" appearances by friends, and family. The idea for "This Is Your Life" arose while Edwards was working on "Truth or Consequences". He had been asked by the U.S. Army to "do something" for paraplegic soldiers at an Army rehabilitation hospital. Edwards chose a "particularly despondent young soldier and hit on the idea of presenting his life on the air, in order to integrate the wreckage of the present with his happier past and the promise of a hopeful future. The show was always a feel-good, tear-jerker because we witnessed people helping people.

Back to my Mom and her 70th – we invited friends and family from all over the U.S. to come to the celebration, but she thought that only local friends from church and her community would be there. What she didn’t know, however, were the long-distance friends and family that we had hidden in another room. My husband was the emcee of the night. He’d share sweet stories from his relationship with her and other people were giving their own stories about how Mom exuded God's love to them. But, then the BIG SURPRISE! Mom would hear a voice over the loud speaker saying “Edna, you and Roscoe (my dad), saved my life and marriage when you came to the bars and took me home. You showed me the love of Jesus.” My Mom, shocked, said “Is that you David?” Indeed it was and he and his wife came out and hugged Mom who was elated to see them. Another said, “Edna, you were my best friend and you always encouraged me.” She would come out and they would embrace. Many family members and friends came great distances to express how Mom had changed their life.

In a world that often seems so self-serving, isn't it a breath of fresh air to be around those who have hearts of service -- who seemingly live to give. I pray that this post today encourages us to keep our eyes and hearts wide open to the little nudges that someone needs today. Another gal at the Bible Study said to another gal “You influenced me to come to this Bible Study and I’m so glad you did. It is just what I needed” Another gal, with tears in her eyes, looked at another gal and said, “Thank you for the time you give to my daughter. You have changed her life.”

The video tape is recording. What will we see at the end of the day? One of the greatest things about becoming a Christian is the heart-change we have about wanting to be a difference maker in other people’s iives. We give others what we have been given: hope, comfort, peace, love and compassion. We become a mentor to someone who needs extra help in following after God. What better way to mentor than to be the example of caring for others. Lord, please make us to be "Doers of the Word, and not just Hearers, only!" (James 1:22)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Is Your "Faith Tank" Running on Empty?

Before I left for Austin on Sunday, I made sure to get my car filled with gas. I was thinking the closer I go South, maybe the gas shortage could create a “treasure hunt” to find gas – not to mention the price of gas might be higher as I travel further South also. I did notice, as I traveled South that there were empty gas stations – no gas available, so I was glad I had filled up before leaving Frisco.

I thought I’d stop in at my favorite gas station, Buc-ee's, and its ginormous store, At Buc-ee’s, you’ll find every snack and meal you can imagine, drink, home d├ęcor, Texas themed apparel and lots of Buc-ee’s name brand merchandise. Best of all, they have really nice and clean bathrooms -- and no waiting -- plenty room for busloads. This Buc-ee’s is just South of Temple, TX which is about 75 miles from my kids’ home in Austin. To my delight, even though there were plenty of their 60+ pumps shut down, they had plenty that were open at a gas price of $2.29 a gallon for unleaded gas. I filled up just in case Austin stations were low on gas. Unfortunately, Premium and Diesel gas wasn’t available.

On my way back home to Tulsa, yesterday, I went back to Buc-ee’s and even more pumps were shut down, but the few remaining, gave me the opportunity to fill up for my trip home and beyond.

Friends in my Frisco community told me that Dallas is having an unusual gasoline shortage. I posted about the craziness I encountered when I was filling my car up last Saturday. Apparently, the craziness was because word got out that Hurricane Harvey could cause massive gas shortages. As a result, thousands of people in our area rushed to gas pumps, which, if they were open, the line stretched for hours.

Isn’t that craziness like our culture today? People get all worked up about politics, a flu virus, global warming, Wall Street’s ups and downs, the cost of gasoline or the lack thereof. They watch dismal news stations 24-7 and they over-react and start complaining and expressing fear to those around them.

I’ll admit I was a bit cautious about traveling to Austin because I needed to be back home for meetings yesterday and if there was a gas shortage, I’d miss my must-be-at meetings. But, then I took a deep breath and settled my “unsettledness” with my favorite scripture “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways (the highways and byways) acknowledge Him, He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6). I like to think that my stopping at Buc-ee’s was Him directing my paths. He was there for me going AND coming!!

Maybe it’s time for us to look at our own lives and what we need to make it with a “full tank” of high octane fuel to be our best, but not just during short bursts or when we need to be at our “peak.” We want to live and maintain our full potential, to reach and sustain what is called “high performance.” High performance is that living “above and beyond” the fray. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Maybe it’s time for us to look at how our faith and attitude measures up during times like these. We need to consider is our "faith tank" full of high octane fuel to help us go the distance? An octane rating, or octane number, is a standard measure of the performance of an engine. How is your engine (your mind, will and emotions) running? Is it performing at its best? Our we running on the bare minimum of just aa little “God additive” with a thought towards Him occasionally in our day? Of course, He is always with us and never forsakes us, but what if we put in the premium fuel that includes “living in His presence” where we acknowledge Him regularly throughout our day and even spend time in His Word – soaking in the peace that passes understanding, the joy of the Lord which is our strength, the love that never fails and the confidence that "Our God reigns" and our God lives big in us. With that kind of "additive" how could we not be thriving and getting extra mileage for the journey?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Maybe You Could Use a Gap Year or Month or Day

I’ve been in Austin to see two of my sweet Canadian cousins. The extra perk is that they are staying at my kids’ home for a few days until they head out for Comfort, TX where Tynessa Neufeld will be attending Bible School.

Tynessa is taking a “gap” year to wholeheartedly pursue God and His Word. A “gap year” is typically when a student takes off a year to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Sometimes that gap year affords them the opportunity to explore the world or volunteer to help build water wells in third world countries or, in Tynessa’s case – to hone in on what God has planned for her future. Tynessa is three years in on her degree from the University of Manitoba, but along the way, she started asking “Where am I going? What will I be doing once I graduate? God, what IS your plan for my life?”

With so many questions about her future and a foolproof plan for her career future, she had an “aha” moment when she realized the answers can best be found in pursuing God and serving others. In fact, their first serving opportunity will be to Houston where the students will do their share in helping meet the needs there. I love her heart to be ON PURPOSE to get the answers for her future from HE Who knows everything about everything. The location is isolated and beautiful. I love that. Focus – void of the distractions of the world. Good for her and no doubt she will hear God’s voice -- loud and clear.

I, too, am in a “gap” year. I’m digging into the Word like the days when I was teaching full time which always gave me clear understanding for today’s decisions and tomorrow’s. We all need a “gap” time to clear our heads and hearts to hear directions from Heaven-Central! I sense that God may be waiting for many of us to admit to our dissatisfaction and lift our chins toward heaven and have guts enough to ask, “Are You asking more of me? Are You wanting me to pursue you more? Do You have plans for me that can only be known and found as I seek You with all my heart?”

If it is, then may God give peace and understanding to those of us who are unsettled. Over the course of the last six years, one of the things I believe God has consistently made clear to me is that He’d require more in my later years than less. Coasting was out of the question. If I wanted to be effective as a teacher and devoted follower of His, to bear more fruit so others see Him in me, I’d have to press in further, go deeper with Him in His Word, get bolder in love, service, and prayer. Those of us who are sensing an unsettled heart are expressing dependence on He Who GAVE His all for us. Unlike those with an "entitlement" mentality, our Lord was “titled” with God, Creator, Almighty, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, but He came to be one like us, without a title, to feel what we feel. He even took GAP times when He was found in the temple at age 12 and went home to learn more about His Father and pray and serve, and in His ministry years, He still needed to have GAP times when He’d steal away to a mountain to pray or to the Garden of Gethsemane to receive the strength He needed for what was up ahead.

We keep hearing the words “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. We must ask ourselves the questions: "Are we really praying anymore? Do we read our Bibles anymore? As hard as this is to accept, reading a blog post or a daily devotion doesn’t really qualify as reading the Bible. We’re getting push notifications on our phones for our daily Scripture readings, but is that really digging into and seeking God's face and reading and meditating on God's Word?

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul refers to “the word of God which is at WORK within you.” Maybe it’s time for us to find some GAP moments, minutes, hours, days or even a year to seek Him and find Him. We won't have to look far. He's already there!