Lost in Transition

I have lost many things in transition: a guitar, a vintage, yellow mirror that I loved, my grandma’s vase, my new tennis shoes.

I’ve also lost even more important things in transition: friendships, trust, credibility, hope, lots of time and money.

Transition is always hard. Even if we are so happy to move, get married, have that baby or take that church, transition takes a lot out of someone. 

I should know.

The first fifteen years or so of my life was pretty steady. We lived in the same area of Houston and went to the same church during that time. But then we moved to Austin and things were never the same! I married a few years later and began the whirlwind that was my life. Never in one place long, it was a miracle that we pastored in Bogalusa for six whole years!

We have made “full proof of our ministry” by experiencing life as pastors, assistant pastors, worship leaders, women’s ministry leaders (me), missionaries, evangelists, bishops (Jon), board members, teachers, youth pastors and everything in between! We are definitely experts in transition (although not in much else...)

Transition is a tough trade-off. We gain but we also lose. We have joy but we also have sorrow. We have hope for the future but also nostalgia for the past. We are ripping ourselves out of one reality to make room for a new one. Who we were before goes into hiding as we find out who we’re gonna be now...now that everything has changed. It may take months or even years to begin to fill a part again, to fit my new shape into the new puzzle. 

Sometimes transition makes us happy. I will never forget seeing one town in our rear view mirror and singing, “Lately all I’ve got is leaving on my mind. Seems that’s all I’ve been thinkin’ bout...most of the time.” Punched that time clock and we were outta there! Also, when we moved back to Austin in ’06 was one of the happiest times of my life. We had made some huge changes in our lives and ministry and were looking forward to ministering in a city that we loved and also living around my family for the first time since I married.

 Unfortunately though, some transitions leave us grieving...or let me just come out and say it:lying-on-the-bed-for-two-days-crying-nonstop-about-the-loss-of-life-as-I-knew-it. I have never been able to go to one of the services that Jonathan announced to the church that we were leaving. I’m strong but not capable of dealing with that. Having to try to explain why yes, we feel strongly to do what we are doing, no, nobody is running us off, yes, we love you but we have to leave you, you have been our hearts and souls for two, four, six years but now you willbe someone from our pasts that we think about with affection... it’s too much.

These are my transitions. They may sound silly compared to things you have been through. No way this comes close to the loss of a marriage or a child, financial duress or an unfaithful spouse. We all carry our own burdens. But through sharing these burdens with each other, maybe they can become a little lighter.

I will pray for you today if you are in a tough transition. It’s a scary, precarious time. There were a few times I just thought maybe life wasn’t worth living if it was gonna be full of all this pain, betrayal and grief. People let me down and it took a long time to trust again. I disappointed people and hated myself for it. I even questioned God and His role in the whole situation. But transition is a part of life. We will never stop changing until we change into our immortal bodies and time, death and gravity no longer have a hold on us.

You can make it! Things will get better soon. Time does heal a lot of wounds. You are strong and mighty and tomorrow will be better than today IF you keep pressing and believing. Don’t give up hope! Lift up your eyes to the hills and realize where your help comes from! Vent to godly friends and counselors and grieve as long as you need to. Transition is a loss and should be treated as such.

I am with you friend! We have all been there. This road isn’t always easy but no matter how many crooked turns we may take, we can put our trust in a God who has never failed us and is watching out for us every step of the way. He has a plan and when we submit to taking His steps instead of our own, everything will work out and we will reach the destination He has had in store for us since we were in our mother’s wombs.

 

 

Safe or Sorry?

 

 

Is it really better to be safe than sorry? I’m wondering...

 

I just had a janky looking mole removed from my leg. It was an uncomfortable office visit for a biopsy, then a two week recovery. Had to favor that thigh so I didn’t pop the stitches, then it was another visit to get them taken out. I will have a scar the rest of my life.

 

The thing is, it was just a mole. A janky looking, benign mole.

 

I mean, thank God it wasn’t cancerous! My mom, sister and niece have all had cancerous moles removed and that’s why I went ahead and had it looked at even though I’m not a fan of going to the doctor.

 

As they say, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

 

But it got me thinking about the cost of us playing it safe. I haven’t gotten my doctor bill yet, so no telling how much it actually cost me money-wise to get that little mole cut out of my leg. And that’s not including any downtime,  discomfort, or scarring.

 

Even more than that though, I wonder if I have ever “played it safe” and maybe missed out on some grand adventure God had planned for me?

 

I come from a laid-back family. We don’t do blow-ups or fights or estrangement. We don’t blast off passive-aggressive rants on Facebook or sub-tweet on Twitter. We are cool. Mellow. Safe. My husband and his family are pretty much the same. We are chill and it takes a lot to get us riled up.

Which is great! I’m very thankful for the relationships we have with each other. I am blessed that my everyday life is smooth and ordinary and safe.

 

But right now, I’m in the mood to rock the boat! I want to jump out and walk on water! I don’t want to sit in the boat and whine about the storm and the waves and woe is me and where is Jesus when I need Him?! Yeah, the boat is probably “safer.” Can you imagine Peter weighing out the probable outcomes of him jumping out of that boat and walking on the water? “Let’s see...the velocity of the wind multiplied by the height of the waves subtracted by the depth of the sea, add my weight and height...”

 

Not seeing it. I have a feeling he saw Jesus and just wanted to take a great adventure. He saw something he had never seen-a man walking on top of the water, oblivious to the storm around him!-and said “Yeah, I’m in! I want some of that!” He dared to step out no matter the storm around him or the impossibility of what he was about to attempt. I like to think he thought something like, “Well, I may die but I won’t be safe and I won’t be sorry!” right before jumping over the side of that rocking boat.

 

People, Peter walked on water! As far as we know, he was the only person besides our Lord who did it! Was the risk worth the reward? I think so!

 

Did he doubt and begin to sink? Yes, he did and we will too. We are only human! We may step out and start to walk on water and then we realize what we are doing! And human reasoning pulls us back to reality and we begin to doubt in our flesh what we started out to do in the Spirit. But you know what? Jesus was right there as Peter began to sink! And He is with us! He will never leave us or forsake us! 

 

Did He approve of Peter more than the others who held back in the boat in fear? I don’t know. I have lots of questions about faith and failures and such. But I know that today-right now-I am stepping out of the boat. I don’t want what everybody else has. I don’t want to be comfortable or stagnant or doubtful or safe. I want more. I want to walk on water if Jesus bids me “Come”!

 

We can all do it! Even in the most difficult circumstances, He is near and He is loving and supportive. He is ever-present to lend a hand and lift us up  when we are drowning and place us above the storm and doing things we never thought were possible!

 

Step out today! Don’t be safe! Test out those waters and see if you can walk on them! If you start to sink, just call out to Jesus and He’ll be there when you need Him.

 

You won’t be sorry.

Time to Hustle

“The Dream is Free but the Hustle is Sold Separately”

Back of a Baseball Mom’s T-Shirt

 

 

Thinking about dreams today and then I saw the T-shirt. I knew it was a sign. I have a dream right now, a huge one. It’s about a three million dollar dream. It’s too big for me. I can’t attain it. I can’t even really wrap my brain around it.

 

But it’s there. I can’t shake it loose. I can’t give it up. Even when the doubters say it can’t be done or the owners quote that price tag, it remains. 

 

My daring dream.

My sweet spot.

What my life would look like if I could have exactly what I wanted. 

 

But who gets that? Who am I to think that I get more after so many have so little? I am already abundantly blessed! The fulfillment of this dream would just be the icing on the cake. I would have my cake and get to eat it too.

 

Am I that lucky? Do I think I am special or something? Why can’t I just be ordinary and not dream big, extravagant, expensive dreams? Who do I think I am? 

 

I’ve traveled the world. I have a beautiful, healthy family. I pay my bills.

 

I live in America.

 

What more do I need?

 

Need?? I guess I don’t need this dream to become reality. I could continue to live my life as is and still be fulfilled, happy and healthy.

 

But I want it real bad.

 

So I decided today that I’m gonna hustle. I’m going to do everything I can do to make it happen. If it does, YAY! If it doesn’t, at least I will know I gave it my all and did the best I could. I’m gonna pray, fast, network, call, talk, agree, bind, loose, trust, whatever I can do-in all my human power-to make it work. 

 

Then-if God wills-He will step in and actually make these spinning wheels get some traction and take me somewhere. He can do more in one second than I can do all my life. He has already proven that to me in the pursuit of this dream. I can’t do it. I don’t have an extra three million lying around. But He does. And what’s so cool is that He doesn’t expect me to do the impossible. He knows I am weak and lowly. He only expects me to do what I can do. He expects me to trust Him with the heavy lifting and just walk through any open doors I see and maybe even bust down a few if needed.

 

He expects me to hustle.

 

So hustle it is. No more indecision or worry or doubt. I'm going for it! It's what I want, my dream. I am going to “write the vision and make it plain so that he who reads it can run with it” as the Bible admonishes. I won’t give up. 

 

On any of my dreams. 

 

Send up a prayer for me if you don’t mind. I will need it for the arduous journey ahead. I want everything God has for me and I know you do too! He is able and He is faithful! I truly believe that if we will trust in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts.

 

If we will just give Him a lil’ hustle.

 

 

 

Parenting is Forever

 

 

“I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always.

As long as I’m living,

My baby you’ll be.” *

 

    He didn’t want me to take a picture of him while we were waiting at the train station for him to go back to Arkansas. He had been here for two weeks and I really hated to see him go again. I thought he looked so cute with his black joggers and cool new camera backpack, his Christmas hat and vintage, key necklace.

 

    “You can take one. Just don’t post it on social media.”

 

    “That’s okay.”

 

    I guess it was too early and he had a certain image to uphold. So I shot a picture with my mind and engraved it on my heart. Even though he was leaving me for a month or two, in a way, he is still here.

 

    As usual, I began to over think things after he left. We had had some pretty deep conversations while he was here about things he and his siblings had been through growing up. I listened and commiserated with all the challenges we have faced as a family. I tried to put a positive spin on the negatives but not really having any solid answers, I ended up with Old Faithful, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

    I know we didn’t always make things easy for our kids. They were preacher’s kids from day one and pastor’s kids for most of their lives. Sometimes that’s hard soil to grow in. We moved around a lot. They had to leave friends and change schools quite a few times. We didn’t live around our extended families and we worked too hard. 

 

    And now, he’s grown. He is a man. A fine, young man if I say so myself. He is off in another state, pursuing his education and his dreams.

 

    But he is not beyond our reach. I used to think that we had 18-20 years with our kids to teach and to train them, to influence and impact them. That we better “get it while the gettin’s good” because after that, well...it was too late.

 

    However today, I read something on Facebook that changed my mind. An elder of ours from years ago is in the hospital getting real close to seeing Jesus face to face. This couple influenced our family for years and helped us in one of the biggest decisions of our lives. And it’s sad to see them become older and weak. 

 

    But even more than that, the posts of his children about him and their mom have really impacted me. They speak of how their parents have led them (and so many others!) with integrity and strength for so many years. And I realized something.

 

    Parenting is forever.

 

    Sure, when your kids turn eighteen you can kick them in the pants and say, “Hasta la vista baby. You’re outta here.” I guess there are people who do things like that. But that is a foreign concept to millions of people around the world. Many people live in multi-generational homes with their parents and grandparents. Or they live in the village they were born in along with all their aunts, uncles and cousins. It seems like America is one of the few places that values independence so supremely that we have perpetuated the thought that parents are only valuable when they pay for braces and college and then after that, they are dispensable.

 

 

    That’s not how we roll in my family! My people are close to their kids. We actually like each other! We spend holidays and birthdays and really every day with each other. I’ve raised my kids to know that they won’t ever get rid of me! Not to even try. 

 

    If they kill me, I’ll just come back to haunt them.  

 

    To me, this thing doesn’t end when they turn eighteen, twenty-one or even when they get married (a heads up to any potential future son or daughter in laws!) I will be a part of my children’s lives as long as I have breath in my body. I will encourage, teach, pray for and support. Straight up. I’m just saying. It doesn’t end. Ever. 

 

    “As long as I’m living.”

 

     So I have a new hope today. Renewed grace for another day. I haven’t done everything right but I can start over again today and trust it will be better. I will never “clock out” or finish my shift. Parenting is forever. As long as I’m living, I will influence my children, one way or the other. I pray I have the strength to continue to do good in their lives.

 

    No matter how old you are, God’s mercies are renewed every morning. No matter how much hurt has muddled the feelings you have for each other, today can be the day it all changes! Begin today to be that good influence you have always wanted to be. Get all up into your kids’ lives and show them what it means to be an involved and loving parent. It’s the most important job we have been given. We "can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength!"

 

    He doesn’t want me to take a pic? No prob! I’ll get one another time. As long as I’m living, I’ll be around.

 

 

*“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch

"No Spending" Month

 

 

    How many of you have wallets that need a little R&R after the holiday season? I know mine does! So our family goes on a spending break in January. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t spend any money in January, hence the No Spending in parenthesis. We haven’t got to the point yet where we can eat for a month out of our pantry or freezer. And of course, those monthly bills keep rolling in. No, it is more of a voluntary freeze on things we can cut back on for a few weeks and it is for many great reasons.

 

  1. Replenish bank accounts.

    This is a very important reason to cut back on spending in January. Most of us have given till it hurts and we need to give our wallets a break from all that opening and closing. If you are like my family, you have already bought or been given as Christmas presents most of the winter clothes you need. We ate enough from Thanksgiving to New Year’s that we could cut waaayy back on food expenses and not miss a scrap. So there’s not really a whole lot that we need in January. Want maybe, but not need. By planning a “no spending” month, we are able to funnel any extra money we have back into our accounts instead of spending on stuff we don’t really have to have.

 

  1. Use up what we’ve got.

    Most of have have a whole lot of stuff we don’t really use, extras of this and that all over our houses. Too many clothes, too much food, way too many knick-knacks and papers and books. If we will focus on using up what we have instead of rushing out to buy more, we will not only save money but we will de-clutter our homes as well in the process.

 

  1. Focus on what we have.

    One of the greatest things about this month is that we will focus on what we have instead of constantly being on the lookout for what we want.. I am not a big shopper but I have determined that even Goodwill runs are out for January. Every heard someone say, “Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you need to buy it.” I think that probably applies here. We can get so focused on what we desire-covet-that we forget all of the wonderful things we have right under our noses. And not just material things but also, family and neighbors and pets and free sunshine and green grass! (Yes, I am one of those tree huggers.) Denying ourselves for one short month will take our minds off of always wanting, wanting, wanting and cut some those coveting ways out of our lives so we can focus on the things that really matter.

 

  1. Have time to focus elsewhere.

    Cutting out shopping could add many hours to our month! If we realized how much time we actually spend shopping, preparing to shop, unloading all our purchases, making room in our houses for them, figuring out how to use/wear them...makes me tired just thinking about it! We could turn around and use that time productively doing something else. We could read more, study our Bibles, work out, and clean out our sock drawer. 

 

    Have you ever tried one of these “No Spending” challenges? There are quite a few different ones floating around. Let us know how it worked for you! I am actually excited about doing it because of the many great benefits it brings. Join me! Do your own version for your own reasons. 

 

    You’ll be glad you did!

Out with the Old-De-cluttering

    I live with a bunch of messy people. Cute, sweet, loving but messy. I am not messy. I will admit to saving things and keeping sentimental items so I would venture to say that I have a mild case of hoarding. But messy, I am not. Now, don’t get me wrong...I’m not a neat-freak. I don’t keep my house spotless by any means. I’ve always lived by the motto on a magnet I got when my kids were young that “A Clean House is no Place to Raise Kids!” 

 

    Not really...but yeah...

 

    No lie, I always wished that at least one child of mine would have just a smidgen of OCD but unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. So life for me is a constant litany of “Clean your room! Pick up your clothes! Put your dishes in the sink!” It definitely gets aggravating. (I am open to tips on getting my kids to clean; cheap, beach vacations; and/or stress medications.)

 

    So another thing I like to do in January is de-clutter and clean my house from top to bottom. I know it doesn’t sound like fun after all the parties and food of November and December but it is something that really needs to be done...at my house anyway. January is kind of a “clean slate” kind of deal for me, a starting point for the year. 

 

    I am going to start with my closet, bedroom and bathroom. I keep it all pretty clean and organized anyway but there are a few, dark corners here and there that should be gone through. I will get rid of everything I don’t need or want anymore. I will trash anything broken and donate any good stuff. I will re-organize all my shelves, cabinets, and drawers. I will clean everything from the ceiling fans to the baseboards. Then I will start on the rest of the house. 

 

    I do covet your prayers.

 

    One of the main reasons I do this is also because we go on a “No Spending” Month in January (I’ll let you know all about that in my next blog!). So I want to find all of the stuff I have jumbling up my cabinets-everything from half-empty bottles of shampoo and lotion to half-eaten bags of chips-and  use up all of that excess stuff so I don’t have to buy so much new. 

 

    I feel like de-cluttering and fasting have a lot in common and that is why I combined them both in this “Out with the Old” little blog series. Both are good for us in many ways. When we do both these things, we get rid of all of the “extra” we have in our lives-our stomachs and homes especially. We use up what we have and clear our minds. It’s good for our wallets and for our bodies! It’s like hitting “reset,” getting back to the basics, and starting fresh in the new year.

 

    I’ve looks like I’ve got lots of work to do! I am interested to know how you may go “Out with the Old and In with the New”? Do you have any regimens you do in January to get you, your family and your home ready for the new year? 

 

    I know that I can “do all things through Christ who gives me strength”! With the help of the Lord and my family and friends, I know that I will be able to accomplish all that I need to do for the continued comfort and success of my family.

 

Out with the Old

 

 

    Don’t get worried...I’m not tossing out Grandma and Grandpa or their cool, vintage stuff! No, for me, it’s just that time of the year again. Time to let some stuff go. Get over it and toss it out! I have a couple of blogs I will be sharing with you on this subject and the first thing I want to talk about is fasting.

 

    January has always been a time of fasting and prayer for our family and usually the churches we are a part of. It seems natural that we should turn to silence and meditation after all the partying and noise we were a part of in December. We think a lot about what we and our loved ones want in November and December but January is a great time to turn our thoughts to the Lord and what He wants for us this year. 

 

    Many people do their next year’s planning in December so they can be ready for January 1 to start their goals. I think that‘s great.  And I did do a lot of research on some things and do know kind of where I am headed the next couple of months at least. But we usually like to wait till life slows down a bit and we are able to push away from the socials and the Oreo Cookie Balls (I ain’t gonna lie) and put more of our focus on tuning into what the Lord has to say about it all before we make any definite plans.

 

    Fasting is one of the greatest things we can do for our bodies, minds, and spirits. I’ve heard a lot of reasons from people about medications or blood sugar or jobs but the fact remains, everyone can fast. You just have to fine tune the fast to fit you! Instead of using the blanket statement (excuse), “I can’t fast because (fill in the blank),” maybe change the statement to something like, “I can’t go on a total fast or a Daniel’s Fast because of (fill in the blank) but I want to fast so I will do this instead.” 

 

    God will honor any kind of fasting that we do! As far as I know, God is not up in heaven with a rule book that states, “You have to fast everything but water or it doesn’t count as a fast.” Do what you can do! Fast French fries and coffee! Fast The Dr. Oz Show and chocolate! Anything that we give up in the spirit of denying our flesh to enable us to draw closer to God is a fast in my book. Great emphasis is put on fasting in the Bible and it is one of the great “Spiritual Disciplines” written about by Richard Foster. It should be a regular part of our Christian journeys, along with prayer, reading the Word, serving, giving and gathering together.

 

    It is not only a very spiritual act but it is also very beneficial to our bodies to fast. Fasting allows our bodies to detox and rest. Most of us fill our bodies all day long every day with a lot of stuff...some good, some bad. But fasting will give our bodies a break from the constant barrage of more and allow it to use all of what is already in there and maybe take a breather. From what I read, a total fast of three days will actually detox our bodies and allow them to reset to their “factory settings.” After three days, we have had withdrawals from sugar, caffeine, processed foods and whatever else we cram in there (this is why the first three days are the hardest!) and we are able to choose whether to allow those harmful things to come back into our lives and rule our eating habits. Another great option is fasting a full day a week because it prompts us to be more mindful of what we eat on a daily basis and also reminds us how demanding our flesh constantly is. 

 

    Another area fasting affects is our minds. Around the second day, our minds clear and we can focus. Our bodies are resting from a lot of the internal drama it goes through processing food and sends all its resources to our brains. (I don’t know really...I’m just guessing! But it sure sounds right...) We have tried our best to set aside phones and computers and TV and anything else that is competing for our attention and we f-o-c-u-s. No food or text or YouTube video is vying for our minds so we are able to direct our thoughts right where we want them to go and they actually go there! We are able to clearly analyze things and meditate and ask God His opinion on our lives and pocketbooks and families and jobs and well, everything else.

 

    I have given us a lot of great reasons to fast. It’s not really that hard. I just watched the film “Unbroken” and I realized that I haven’t done anything all that “hard” in my life compared to some. Fasting is like anything else-exercising, eating right, giving part of our income to God-we know it’s the right thing to do;we just need to kick ourselves in the butt and do it! 

 

    Maybe find a fasting buddy. Someone who can support you through the hungry times when you feel sluggish and your body is releasing all those toxins out of your system. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you are fasting! You may have to let your boss or that friend you usually do Zumba with know. They need to know why you look/act like you are death warmed over! It’s because you feel like you are! The Bible talks about the Pharisees who bragged about fasting to others to gain respect. This is not what we do. We talk about fasting to encourage others to take the plunge and also to get support if we need it.

 

    Don’t worry so much about the “rules” of fasting.That is not where our focus should be. The heart is where God looks. No matter how you do it, I encourage you to fast. It’s so worth it for the dividends acquired in your body, mind and spirit.

New Year's Eve Thoughts

 

    As I stand on the brink of 2015 and look back over 2014, I’m thankful because I am a grateful person. I am usually optimistic and look for the good in every situation. I am a fixer. I don’t cry about it; I just make it right. 

    But I can’t always do that. I realize now more than ever that I can’t fix everything and sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t make things better. As much as “self-help” gurus try to make us believe it, we can’t always make our dreams a reality. Sometimes, even if we want to “achieve the impossible” and “reach for the stars,” life just bites us in the butt and there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Which brings me to my thoughts tonight. I grabbed my Bible to see what God thought about my little bad attitude. I opened up right to Psalms. After the words spoke to me so poignantly, I quickly looked to see who had written it. Yep...David. That spoke volumes. See, David was a “man after God’s own heart.” So if David could feel that way, it was okay for me to do the same. I won’t let you in on exactly what the psalm was about but take my word for it, ole Dave was talkin’ some smack. My new HCSB Life Application Study Bible even says, “Theme:Righteous indignation against liars and slanderers. We can tell God our true feelings and desires.” 

      Sweet... 

 

    This is why it is so important to read our Bibles. Of course, you may not believe that me opening up my Bible to a certain Scripture had anything to do with God. Believe me, I have read/heard the snarky remarks people say about weirdos who do that. But me and God have our own thing going on...

 

    When we read what the heroes of the Bible endured and how they also questioned God’s ways, we realize that it is only human for us to do the same. We are not supernatural. We are not omniscient. We don’t have it all together or know everything. Sometimes, we are just hanging on for dear life!

 

    But David actually felt the same way every once in a while. Sure he was usually all “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me!” but other days he muttered along with the rest of us “Are You kidding, Lord? Somethings. Got.To.Give.” (It’s in there…check it out…)

 

    And tonight, that brings me comfort. I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. There was even a man in the New Testament who, when the Lord asked if he believed replied, “Lord, I believe! Wait...what?? Yeah...help my unbelief.” 

 

    Because I read my Bible, I know that there are others who before me have witnessed the wrestling match between what we “know” in our heads and how we “feel” in our hearts. Yes, we know “God is good, all the time!” But why am I still hurting? Of course, God is our healer and provider! Then why am I still sick and broke? We want to bless the Lord even when we don’t feel like it because we know we should and He is always worthy but...help, Lord because I really don’t feel like it right now...

 

    Anyone can look back over my year on Facebook and see what a blessed woman I am! I see that too. I know that. And my head argues with my heart about it. But my heart says, “Just let me grieve. Let me feel what I feel. Even if it’s not true or holy or spiritual. It’s what I need to do right now.”

 

    I was raised in a performance based Christianity and I always feel like I need to do better. I need to get it right. Everything should be perfect. And maybe this year I will. Maybe I’ll get it together. Maybe all those people are right and I just need to work harder and be smarter and more disciplined and I’ll have a perfect life like they do. 

 

    Or maybe things will never be perfect on this terra firma because then we wouldn’t long for heaven. Maybe God puts us in a place of discontent so we will long for that day when we see Him face to face and all the dreams and goals and New Year’s Resolutions fade from our memories like last night’s bad dream.

 

    Sorry but I don’t have the answers and I’ve been doing this thing for a looonng time. I am a fellow sojourner, biding my time and doing my best with what I have. I long for the day when I see Him and I will understand why things happen the way they do. I join with David and Abraham and Moses and all the others whose hearts were sold out to God but yet, sometimes they doubted and misunderstood, wept and grieved. But He proved again tonight that He is faithful and He’s not scared to show up when my spirituality is not up to par. He can handle the questions and concerns. He’s done it from the beginning of time and will continue doing it till the end.

      Would you care to join me on my journey? My steps are not always steady or swift. I need your support up some of these steep mountains and deep valleys. But “since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

A God of Grace and Truth

    (This is something I wrote a while back but didn't publish. Hope it speaks to you today!)

    Hello everyone! I am so glad you have an interest in what is going on in our lives! I tell ya...life has been pretty crazy lately! I was supposed to put a blog on here at least...what two months ago? Sorry Alex!! But anyway...here I am finally!

 

    I will be sharing a lot of myself in this blog. I am a very transparent person who is passionate about what I believe. I will warn you now...you probably won't be reading any blogs from me on politics, global warming or the newest technology craze. There are some things I am just not passionate about enough to spend my time writing about them. Of course, all of the things I just mentioned are extremely important but I will let someone with more expertise in those areas comment on them.

 

    I love to take little things that happen during my day and excavate lessons out of them. I live a pretty normal life. I have three kids, a husband, a mortgage, a dog, two turtles, a bunch of fish...I am a pastor and work full-time in the ministry. So I try to take the lessons learned in my "normal", everyday life and see if I can pull something spiritual out of them! Hope you stick around to listen in on what God speaks to me on an everyday-or every month!-basis.

     Today I was reading my Bible while helping my two smaller kids get ready for school. Between fixing toast and finding "lost" uniforms-they were in the closet-I forced myself to sit, open my Bible and go back to reading Jeremiah.

 

   Now, a couple of things you will learn about me soon if you don't know already is first of all, I love to read! It is second nature to me and something I do everyday. Another thing, I love the Word of God. I know my strength to endure this race comes partially from reading His words to me. Therefore, it is very beneficial for me to take that time to spend in His word. The problem I am having today is not the reading or the book...it is actually where I am in the Book! I started a Chronological, Archeological Bible a while back and was determined to finish it by the time I finished my fast. Well...the fast has been over for a few days and I am still about two weeks behind. I am getting so bogged down in the prophets prophesying so much doom! Another thing about me...I HATE negativity! I am a positive person and I like the people around me to be positive. Hence, my struggle with reading this portion of my Bible.

 

    So, I began to talk to God and bargain with Him. "Lord, can't I just skip this part? (whine, whine) It has been daaayyyysss of judgement and doom!! (sniff, sniff) I know I made a commitment but You don't care do You if I don't actually read everrrryyy word...(please, please) Why is all of this in the Bible anyway?"

 

    And the Lord answered me! Can you believe it? I talked to God and He talked back! I didn't actually hear His voice but the answer to my questions came to me as clear as day. "No, you can't skip this part. It may be daayyyyss of judgement and gloom for you but it was actually decaaaddeeess of judgement and gloom for the Israelites. I DO care if you read every..." 

 

    Well, you get the picture.

 

    But what I think He really wanted to get across was something I have thought about and talked to others about quite a bit and it is this: The reason God had all that judgement put in the Bible is because He is a God of Judgement! He is the All in All. He is everything that is written about in the Word! In Him is Wisdom and Trial and Love and Prophecy and Law. The Book is about Him...ALL of Him.

 

    I am afraid that most 21st century Christians forget that He is a God of Judgement. We love preaching about love and grace! That is so much easier to digest. That's what the crowds want to hear and that's what makes the saints happy. But God put those words of doom and gloom in His Word for a reason even if we don't like them. He wants us to remember, to realize, to know that while He is a God of mercy, grace and love, He is also a Judge who will one day give us what our actions deserve-whether good or bad. Hey! Don't shoot the messenger! 

 

    It's in the Message. 

 

    We cannot ignore the fact that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our salvation. It is a free gift to those who will accept it, no strings attached. BUT, we are also instructed throughout the New Testament (for those of you who don't believe the O.T. has anything to do with us nowadays) to live uprightly, keeping our eyes on heaven and our eternal goal, not letting the sins of this world weigh us down. It is an awkward juxtaposition, an uneasy alliance between grace and truth but one that God thinks about a lot...even if we don't.

 

    Just a little something to think about as you go along your day today. I promise all my blogs won’t be this heavy! Like I said though, I pass on to you what I am learning myself. I just pray today that our God of grace and truth will keep us in the center of His will and purpose for our lives! Lord, show us anything in our lives that is not pleasing to You! Help us realize that you put those weighty words in the Scriptures for a reason to remind us of ALL of Who You are. Let our Christian walk be complete and mature, not lopsided and only half-baked. Help us to judge only ourselves and never others! In Jesus name, amen.

 

My Weakness, His Strength

 To be honest, I hadn’t read my Bible in a few days (but don’t worry because you would not believe the preaching and Bible reading I get off Facebook as I scroll through! Thankful for friends who are excited about what God is doing in their lives and are sharing their testimonies with others). I had stopped at a passage I wasn’t really fond of-Paul is kind of “going off” on the Corinthian saints about something-so I was reluctant to dive into it and kept putting it off. But I finally took it to the park and cracked it open, while I was waiting for my car to get fixed, and figured I would plow through Paul’s ranting and get on to something that would actually help me. Believe it or not, his words were exactly what I needed to read!

    God’s way is always perfect.

    The passage is 2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12 in the NLT. Paul starts out by saying that he is “talking like a fool.” He is upset because the people he introduced to Jesus are now following preachers he doesn’t approve of. He starts comparing himself with these “super apostles.” He lists the ways he is just as worthy as they are to preach the gospel-he is a Hebrew, he is an Israelite and descendant of Abraham, etc. But what absolutely kills me today is that he then begins to list his sufferings right along with his strengths. He uses a lot more ink listing his weaknesses and actually says he “would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”

    Say WHAT??

    This is so confusing to me. Aren’t preachers-and Christians in general-supposed to be perfect? Have it all together? Isn’t that what the “super apostles” of the twenty-first century preach? That God wants us to be rich and well and successful so if we aren’t, there must be something wrong with us? I mean, how many of you have thought about putting something negative you are thinking or feeling on social media but decide against it because of how you will then be perceived? We all have. We were always taught to hide our feelings or anything negative because if we showed that we go through trials, have bad days, or doubt, then we are weak.

    But here is Paul-THE APOSTLE PAUL-finding glory in his weaknesses. The guy we put right there underneath Jesus Christ Himself as the one we should follow and emulate basically says, “Forget about my strengths, let’s focus on my weaknesses.”

    This blows my mind.

    Maybe because I feel so weak right now. Yeah, I could take a little bit of space listing the things I am good at, my past successes and strengths. But my list of weaknesses might take up a page or two. My ministry isn’t really going the way I want it to right now. I don’t feel like I’m doing much in the Kingdom. I am even dealing with sickness in my body. And this whole time, I have thought that was a bad thing. Surely God can’t use me for His glory. Apparently I have missed the mark and become disqualified somewhere in my journey. I have been feeling like I am being punished for something I have done wrong, that I should be ashamed and hide it from others.

    Come to find out, I should be shouting it from the rooftops!

    I should be glad about my shortcomings and weaknesses. I should boast about my faults and screw-ups. I should be telling everybody about how I have blown it and how I don’t feel like I am doing anything right.

    I should boast in my weakness.

    Why?

    Let’s examine chapter 12 verses 7-10; “Even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

    There is so much to extrapolate from this passage. Number one, Paul and God were cool. They were on good terms or God wouldn’t be giving him supernatural visions. Yet, God allowed things to happen to Paul-bad things-to keep him in check. It’s about balance. If things went our way all of the time, we would become spoiled children, waiting on God to pull our next special favor out of His hat. But suffering gives us a reality check. It throws us off our high horses and we land flat on our backs.

    And things look different from down there.

    But boy, do we ever beg God to deliver us from our suffering! We just know that we didn’t dig ourselves into this pit, we didn’t ask for it, but here it is anyway. Surely God will get us out of this mess, won’t He? I mean, isn’t that what being a Christian is all about?

    No, ma’am. Each time, God says, “My gracious favor is all you need.” When it gets to the rubber meeting the road, God says, “Guess what? It’s not about fame or fortune, success or validation. It’s about ME.” And sometimes, apparently, He has to take it all away and strip us down to the basics to make us realize this. He will even  pull “ministry” from our lives so we can have more time to spend with Him.

    “My power works best in your weaknesses.” Wait...I thought you couldn’t work through a flawed Christian. I’ve been told that I had to have it all together before I could help others. I mean, those “super apostles,” the ones who “boast about their human achievements” while they “make you their slaves, take everything you have, take advantage of you, put on airs and slap you in the face” look like they have it all together. They say that if I have God’s “favor” I should be walking in faith and liberty and joy. But You say You work through me MORE when I am weak and flawed?

    “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.” Help me Father to be transparent enough to share with others what I am going through so the power of Christ can work through me! It is not through my own strength that I stand in Him today.

    “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is key:contentment. Knowing that when we are going through tough things, it is all a part of His plan and when He has completed the work He set out to accomplish in or through us, we will be able to come through victoriously.

    We should rejoice knowing that we are just being like Jesus when we have weakness! Chapter 13 verse 4: “Although He died on the cross in weakness, He now lives by the mighty power of God. We, too, are weak but we live in Him and have God’s power.”  I share hope with you today! No matter what your circumstances or situations, God is there! He is receiving glory in your weakness.  It makes sense that we rely on His power because our own is so insignificant. He graciously gives us all we need.
    
    Let’s pray:

    Heavenly Father, I pray that you would help us to be content in whatever situations we find ourselves in today. Whether we are strong or weak, it is ALL for Your glory. Help us not to hide our weaknesses and be ashamed but to boldly boast in them. For Your glory! You are never weak and Your strength never wavers. Help us to “be glad” about our sufferings and try our best to see the good in every one of them. We need You today! Thank You for this timely word. Let it sink in, take root and produce harvest. In Your Holy Name.
 

To Know Him, is to Love

“I want somebody to love me for who I am.” Nick Jonas


    I know it is cliche that I am writing about love right around Valentine’s Day. But God spoke something so clearly to me this morning that I couldn’t help but to pass it on to you. Please don’t read into what I’m not saying! Then again, if you do, you’ve already missed the whole point anyway.

    We have all read the famous verses on love in I Corinthians 13 but let me repeat them again here from the NLT (just in case you typically read a version of the Bible that is hard to understand): “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like the loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.” This passage hits basically  every facet of Christianity from those who call themselves “missional” to the “Word” people to those who are “Spirit-filled.” There’s something here for all of us to think about and apply to our lives.

    I realized this morning that I could teach my kids to go to church, to listen to Christian music continually, to give their money in the offering and read their Bibles but if they didn’t really love God, it wouldn’t amount to anything but legalism. Don’t get me wrong, we should do these things. All of these actions have merit. All of these duties will facilitate love of our Father but these things are not love. These actions are not the end but the means to the end. They are not the final product or the ultimate goal. A heart communing with the Lover of our souls is what we should desire. Daily communication about our lives and obeying what He wants for us is love. Loving His children the way He does is His plan.

    In marriage, we do things for our spouses because we love them. But what if there was no love there? What if we just went through the motions? We could serve one another by bringing home a paycheck or keeping the household going. We can cook a meal and fix the car because, well, that’s what you are supposed to do when you are married. We can even be intimate with each other and go through the motions of love but we can actually do all this without love. Yeah, we have a marriage. It is legal and even productive. But a marriage without love is not really a marriage at all because it misses the whole point.

    Jesus said,“You cast out devils in my name but I never knew you.” The people basically said, “Lord, we did all of these things FOR you! We were spiritual and also reached out to help others. We covered all the bases.” But Jesus said, “You didn’t really know me. We were not intimate. You did all the right motions but your heart was far from me.” Matthew 7

    I have been thinking a lot about different doctrines and theologies lately. I have been re-affirming my beliefs and studying the Scriptures to find a solid basis for them. And I have found there to be many areas of confusion, doubt and misinterpretation in what various Christians believe. Basically, if you want to believe something, there is probably a Scripture somewhere to back you up! (I am not trying to make light of the Scriptures or mock them. I am simply pointing out the many doctrines you can find in the Bible.) In fact, many of the pastors I follow believe different doctrines than me. This is something I have been pondering and processing for a long time.

    But the Lord spoke so clearly to me this morning. It’s like He said, “What did I say??! I told you what was important! It’s as clear as day! You don’t have to study to find it or have a degree in Greek or Hebrew. You don’t have to argue with others and try to make your point. I MADE MY POINT! I said it so many times but I will say it again since so many people have missed it: Love Me with all your heart, mind and strength and love everybody else too. How hard is that?”

    Apparently, it is pretty difficult or we wouldn’t be searching for other ways to measure up or to please God like Paul talked about in I Corinthians 13.

    And what I love about God boiling it all down to love is that anyone can love. You don’t have to be a pastor or a seminary graduate. He didn’t put it so high that normal people can’t reach it. Yet, love encompasses everything! It is simple but so deep. Anyone can do it. I can love people across the world that I don’t even know and will never meet by praying for them and sending missionaries and money and supplies. I can love mean old ladies by not getting mad when they accost me for no reason (see last post.) I can even love my husband by cleaning his closet out because I know he doesn’t like to.

    Here’s a few of the things the Bible says about love; “Love covers. Love is our highest goal. The greatest of these is love. By this (love) everyone will know you are My disciples. Love as I have loved. We show we are servants of God by our pure lives, by love. You should pursue love. Do everything in love.  Circumcision is not important but faith that works through love. Always be humble, accepting one another in love. This is my command:love each other as I have loved you. The person who has loved others has obeyed (fulfilled) the law. All these commands are really summed up in this one rule:love your neighbor as yourself. Love all God’s people. Clothe yourself in love which holds you all perfectly together in perfect unity.”

    I’m no Bible scholar but I believe this proves that love meets all the requirements of a “doctrine.” There may be no other act of Christians that is spoken of so frequently. We put so much emphasis on what other doctrines we believe and how we are right. I wonder if it makes God sad that we are missing the point by a million miles? How His heart must break when we get up in our pulpits and preach about how “that preacher down the road doesn’t have all the truth I have and he is a false prophet going straight to hell.” WHAT?

    Is it all so simple that we have completely missed the forest for the trees? Buried within the pages of His word are so many doctrines and directives and things we all argue about but what if that one four-letter word is all that really matters? What if all the other stuff is just a test God put in there to see what we would do? To see what we would focus on? Wouldn’t it be crazy if we get before God for judgement and He simply says, “Did you love?” And we are all like “Love? Well...ummm...sorta but mostly I just held that doctrinal line! Others were not believing the correct doctrine but I did and I let them know how wrong they were! I studied Your word to make sure I knew the whole truth and I preached it hard.” And God says, “That’s not what I asked. I said, 'Did you love?'”

    He even modeled it for us-gave us a Sunday School object lesson since we are so dull-when He died on the cross for us. He could have continued His life, teaching, preaching, healing the sick, ministering to the hurting-all the things we do-but because He loved us, He gave the ultimate sacrifice, His life. He showed us that it’s not about all those other things. It’s about love. Period.

    Going through the motions is not what God desires of us. If our “heart is not in it” then we need to stop and re-evaluate what we are doing. Jesus said that we can do everything right and be working in His Kingdom and He will still banish us if we don’t know Him. To know Him is to love.

    I weep as I write this. I am sad that I am 44 years old and just now understanding this. I want to pass this on to my children so they don’t go halfway through their lives before they get it. I don’t want them to think Christianity is all about a book and a place and a doctrine and a lifestyle and a preacher when it’s really all about a Person and one simple thing:love.

1-Love God
2-Love people
3-Repeat daily
 

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

Little Old Ladies and Mischievous Fathers

So I almost got beat up by a little old lady in the movie theater tonight because my phone beeped with a text. I had told Alayna to text me her plans for the evening and I guess I forgot to put my phone on silent. It made one small sound right as Tom Hanks was facing the pirates for the first time.

    I didn’t know my own life was in danger as well.

    Out of the blue, Granny went straight up OG on me! She was serious! Standing up shouting at me to turn off my phone or she was going to tell the manager and get me kicked out...like Captain Phillips was gonna get shot by the pirates just because my phone beeped.

    And I just had to laugh. Believe me, it wasn’t because I’m such a good, sweet, mild-mannered person. My husband is nice and if he had been there, he probably would have apologized profusely, begged her forgiveness and offered to move. But folks, that’s just not my nature. I don’t like people actin’ a fool for no reason. And I can fly off the handle pretty quickly.

    No, I had to laugh because my Heavenly Father was being sneaky. He thought He was gonna throw a pop quiz at me and I wouldn’t be prepared and would forget all I said I was going to do. But I had my mind made up and Granny wasn’t going to make me falter.

    Folks, I’ve been through this too many times to not know what the Lord was up to. Because what usually happens when we make new commitments about becoming stronger Christians and better people all around, the Lord will immediately test us to see if we really mean it. To make sure we are gonna walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  And I have been reading a lot about love in my Bible lately and had decided that I was gonna raise my love bar and go to new heights of loving people and open my heart to all kinds of people...

    Hence, the little episode with Cruella Deville. She was sent out on a little errand by my mischievous Father to see just how serious I was about learning to love all kinds of people, people who don’t deserve it, people who are just, well, stupid.

    I realized, once again, that people who act that way are miserable and they just want to make everyone else miserable too. And I just feel sorry for them (and especially for the poor husband sitting beside her!). Most people who are hard to love have so many issues that make them the way they are and somehow, that eases my anger and causes me to soften a little.

    And you know what? I think I passed the test! I didn’t say anything to her or flash any hand gestures. I turned my phone off and sat quietly during the rest of the movie. Captain Phillips made it out alive even though there was that little “cell phone” issue that came up. Afterwards, I went to the bathroom and when I was washing my hands, I turned and there she was. I gave her a little smile and walked out with hands dripping wet. I wasn’t about to ask her to move so I could use the hand dryer.

    I was afraid she would punch me.

How Low Will We Go?

After reading many books on the subject, I join with others in being concerned that we have possibly “lowered the bar” so much that twenty-first century American Christianity bears little resemblance to the first-century Church. In our heartfelt attempt to make a “shallow end to our pool,” to allow the masses an easier and smoother transition, we may have, unintentionally, stripped the Church of its power and depth.

    I have been reading a book entitled, “Almost Christian-What the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church.” I picked it up on a whim at the library and it has literally shaken my world. As a concerned minister and parent, I wanted to read about what American teenagers are saying when it comes to their faith because I know the majority are in big trouble.

    I had no idea I would be the one convicted.

    The author, Kenda Creasy Dean, using statistics from the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted from 2003-2005, builds a case on the spiritual lives of our teenagers. She hooked me from the first sentence! Although I have not finished the book, I highly recommend it. The chapter I just finished reading absolutely floored me. It is entitled “Mormon Envy.” She informs us that Mormon teenagers are the most “highly devoted” of all American religious teenagers. Appendix B- “Mormon teenagers are faring the best. In nearly every area, Mormon teenagers are the most positive, most healthy, the most hopeful and the most self-aware teenagers in the study. Mormon young people also showed the highest degree of religious vitality and salience, the greatest degree of understanding of church teaching and the highest degrees of congruence between belief and action.”

    Remember that the next time you make fun of one riding around on his bicycle.

    All I can ask myself is “Why?” Why are their young people consistently making good choices, living clean lives, going on missions, marrying and having stable families while “our” kids are dropping out of church like flies?

    Now, I am not here to get into a discussion about what Mormons believe or don’t believe. That is not my point. But if we had the time, we could talk about the many things that Mormon families and churches do to ingrain their beliefs and culture into their children. In fact, we could adopt many of their practices-not beliefs-into our own Christian culture and be much better off. Yes, I just said that and before you crucify me, read a book. None of our opinions matter much if the facts are not there to back us up.

    So, what is the difference? Is there an explanation as to why the Mormons are so great at passing on their faith and us regular non-denom and mainline peeps aren’t?

    I don’t know. That is way beyond my pay grade, intellectually and spiritually. I’m sorry but I don’t have the answer to one of the most pressing questions of the twenty-first century Christian church. I know you love me and think I’m smart and all but I do have my limits.

    But...let’s look at the data. IF, according to this National Study of Youth and Religion, Mormon teenagers are well above the average in nearly all areas, could it be possible that one of the reasons is because their church sets such a high standard for them? I mean, they are required to go to seminary every morning of their high school years-before they go to their regular high school!-to learn about the Book of Mormon and the church practices. The men are “encouraged” to go on a two year mission before they marry and finish college. What?! Add that to the restrictions on alcohol, drugs, sex, dressing immodestly, dating, media, etc. and it adds up to a lot of “thou shalt nots.”
        
    And we feel bad making our kids go to church once a week?

    Is it possible that lowering the bar so much has led to lowered commitment to and lower ownership of our Christian values? We all know the sales adage: “The more it costs, the more we will value it.”  Anything we come by cheaply is disposable and well, cheap. That’s why there are “dollar” stores on every corner. Spend a buck for something and it’s no big deal. Didn’t cost much, didn’t mean much. Has this attitude somehow snuck into the American Christian church?

    I am pretty sure I recall Jesus saying somewhere in the Scriptures something about “taking up your crosses” and “laying down your lives” and “the world will hate you because you belong to Me” and “those who endure till the end will be saved” and “those who despise their lives in this world will keep it for eternal life” and “sell all you have and give it to the poor...”

    Does that sound like Dollar Store Religion to you?

    How much are we giving in our relationship with Christ? He gave all. Like they say, “The chicken was involved but the pig was committed” to that breakfast you ate this morning. Jesus gave all, everything, His life. He was deeply committed. What are we? Do we call up God like a 9-1-1 operator when we need help in a bad situation? Do we put Him on a celestial shelf somewhere, as a pretty knick-knack gathering dust, that we like to look at every now and then while we go about our lives?

    Friends, that is not what Christianity should be! It is a passionate love affair, an arduous journey and an eternal hope. We cannot be ambivalent about God. As the Senator said in O Brother Where art Thou?, “Is you or ain’t you my constituents?” Do our friends know we are Christians? Do we act like Christians? Do we talk like Christians? You know where I am going with this...What walks like a duck? Quacks like a...

    I don’t believe we will see a significant change among our teenagers until the pulpit, the church and the family sees where we have gone wrong and immediately change our ways to fix it. The facts are plain as day. High standards and huge buy-ins are good;dollar store religion is not. What will we do? Will we continue on the path we are currently treading and see a generation of young people grow up not knowing right from wrong because we parents and pastors are too scared/busy/uninterested to teach them?

    I know it’s heavy but God please help us raise the bar!


After reading this, my son thought I should give some suggestions. I would love to but knew I was already running long! Please add your suggestions in the comments section and I will write another blog about this very soon.Thanks for your time!

13 Things I Did Not Accomplish in 2013

    If you are anything like me, it’s possible that reviewing your 2013 Bucket List, New Year’s Resolutions or Goal List made you feel a little discouraged. To be honest, there were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish last year that I didn’t.

    Sure, some of it was out of my control. Sometimes other people’s desires get in the way of our desires. And when situations are taken out of our hands, there is nothing we can do but bow out as gracefully as possible and go on with our altered lives.
    Or possibly, my goals were not the same as God’s goals for me. Maybe I let my flesh take over and didn’t listen for the Holy Spirit to lead me down the path I was supposed to take.
    Also, it’s highly likely that I was just too lazy or unmotivated to do those things I thought were important when the year started. I just wanted to chill out and take life as it happened and not put forth as much effort as I should have.
    Whatever the excuse may be, there were several tasks that remained undone. I was bummed for a little bit about not learning how to bake bread and not losing those pesky 15 pounds. But then I realized:there are a lot of things that I did NOT accomplish that I am quite delighted about! I guess it’s all in where we place our focus. I hope you will join me in celebrating the things that we did NOT accomplish in 2013.
 

13 Things I Did NOT Accomplish in 2013

  1. I did NOT go into the hospital or get sick one time.
  2. I did NOT lose my husband to the cerebral malaria he contracted on a mission trip to Africa.
  3. I did NOT give into the bitterness that threatened to consume me.
  4. I DID NOT MOVE! Hallelujah! (that one deserves all caps!)
  5. I did NOT say on social media HALF the stuff I wanted to say.
  6. I did NOT go into further debt.
  7. I did NOT move up a clothing size.
  8. I did NOT curse, beat up or shoot anyone even though I did want to a few times.
  9. I did NOT sell my kids or cheat on my husband.
  10. I did NOT blame God for the bad things that happened to me.
  11. I did NOT give up on the church or God’s people even though I felt hurt and betrayed by them.
  12. I did NOT go ghetto gangsta on people who publicly humiliated my family members for no reason (wait...is that the same as #8? hmmm...maybe I need to modify #3 a bit...ya think?)
  13. I did NOT give into the fear that threatened to overtake me as I was unexpectedly thrust into an uncertain future.

    
    Wow! When I change my perspective a little and look at things differently, I realize I did accomplish a lot in 2013! It may not seem like anything huge to you but then again, you haven’t walked in my shoes. “You don’t know like I know what He’s done for me!” I am thankful I’m still here, alive and well. My family and friends are by my side, sharing in our love for each other. I am strong in my faith and walking daily in God’s presence.
    Sure, I didn’t ride a motorcycle or learn CPR but there’s always 2014. I am alive and that means I still have a future prepared for me before the foundation of the world! God is in control and He has much better plans for me than I could ever think up for myself. Again, as I face this new year, I place my life into His very capable hands and allow Him full access into every area to mold me into the person I need to be.     
    I just hope that person is 15 pounds lighter.

 

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” Steve Jobs

Steph's Steps

 I have been intrigued lately with the connection between mind (or spirit), body and soul. I had some incidents happen to me personally that cemented the idea that the three “parts” of us actually all work in tandem. DUH! (As my friend Doc Litton so delicately commented when I talked to him about this.) I’m kind of dense though...It took several times till I was like, “Wait?! What?...”

    What happens to one affects the others. An easy way to look at it is this:what we do to our bodies physically-what we eat, how much sleep we get, if we are overweight-directly affects the other aspects of our lives. No, I am not saying that what I eat will affect my salvation! But look what the Bible say about gluttony. What about our bodies being a temple that we should take care of? So maybe there is a spiritual or soul connection to how we treat our bodies? Also, if we are fatigued because of not getting enough nutrients, it can affect our minds and even our attitudes.

    A few months ago, I was dealing with a lot of bitterness and anger. I had never held on to grudges or hate toward people but this time I was having trouble letting go. As our friend Doc Litton prayed for me, he felt that it was time to let it go and give it all to God. I had felt the same earlier that week but this was a confirmation I needed. I was ready to forgive but it was so hard! As he prayed for me to be released, he asked if I had any physical symptoms that had just come up lately. I said yes, that I had pain around my heart but on the left side. As he prayed for my deliverance from bitterness, the pain left! The pain was simply a physical manifestation of a spiritual or soul problem. Not only did the physical pain leave but from that day forward, I was also delivered from the anger and bitterness that I had developing roots in me! God is good! This really opened my mind to the obvious connection between our bodies, souls and spirits or minds.

    I was also, at the same time, introduced to a ministry called, “Be in Health” with Henry Wright. His ministry of healing is based on identifying root spiritual problems that display as physical diseases and/or symptoms.  He wrote a very informational book called, “A More Excellent Way” that details what he believes is one facet of healing, identifying spiritual roots. This information along with my personal experience really opened my eyes to a new revelation. This all may sound strange to you but I ask you to just think and pray about it and ask God if this is something that could benefit you. I am not wanting to mess with anyone’s theology! Just wanting to pass on some great information that has changed the way I look at and live my life!

    One of my early mentors, Thetus Tenney, wrote a booklet called, “Life is a Three-legged Stool” that really helped a lot of people. It was basic common sense but something we all needed to be reminded of occasionally. I don’t remember the exact context but the premise was that we are like a three-legged stool. We must be stable on all legs or we may come crashing down! It seems like many of us will spend the proper amount of time stabilizing and strengthening one or two areas of life but then the other areas become weak and hazardous. It is very important that we identify our strengths and weaknesses in all three areas-mind, body, soul-and work daily to make sure every “leg” or part of our lives stay strong. What areas are you strong in today? Have you been eating right and exercising? How is your prayer life? Have you fasted lately? What are your thought processes? Have you been in the Word so your mind can be transformed?

    Believe me, these are all questions I have been asking myself! Because life is so stressful and busy, I find it easier to focus on one area at a time. But then the other areas of my life can become anemic and unfocused. While we were pastoring in Shreveport, I was so consumed with the mind and soul parts of my life that my body was put way back on a top shelf, hidden behind staff meetings and outreach events. I didn’t take time to exercise or eat right. I was too busy working for the Lord! I was unbalanced. Yes, I am sure I racked up some points in my heavenly crown for all I was doing to help others and further the gospel but at the rate I was going, I was gonna be wearing that crown a lot sooner that God intended. So I know what it is like to be off-kilter, to know to do right and different but just not being able to make that happen. I can say that right now in my life I have tilted over to taking care of ME and MINE as the most important task. I am not ministering to others on a daily basis as I have done for years. I am taking some time to get myself and my family “caught up” after five years of my focus being elsewhere. I am so thankful for this time! I feel like me personally and my family as a whole are being restored and rejuvenated on a daily basis and it has been needed for a long time. Hopefully, this will level the stool of life and stabilize things a little bit.

    I don’t know where you are today. If you are in ministry, I can pretty much guess which way your stool is leaning! I encourage you today to take stock of your life. Where are you? Are you reaching your goals? As Switchfoot says, “This is your life. Are you who you wanna be? Is it how it’s supposed to be?” Only you know what you want out of life! My prayer today is that God will make plain the areas we all need to work on. He can make it verryyy obvious believe me! God bless you on your journey!

    
Disclaimer:I will be writing on this three prong connection in the next few weeks. I am studying it out for myself and I’m sure I will learn a lot of new information in the days to come. I am not here to argue with anyone but I welcome your thoughts. I am just wanting to share what has been revealed to me lately to hopefully help someone else!

Perspective

It just dawned on me this afternoon how important it is for us to keep things in the correct perspective. Perspective means "point of view" and "a mental view or outlook." I was sweeping my stairs and the thought tried to break into my consciousness "why am I doing this? what has my life come to? don't I have better things to do??" That old trick of the devil-discontent-was making a play for my thoughts. Of course, he shoulda known better! I have been doing this too long to allow such an amateur move to work on me. I have been through too many changes in my life and seen God work "all things together for my good" too often to allow thoughts of fear of what God is currently doing in my life to take hold. You may think, "All that from sweeping the stairs??" LOL!! Well...I do have an overactive mind...

    One of the activities that we are going to do as a family real soon is to draw timelines of our lives. I know that the kids may not have a huge amount to put on theirs but I still think it is important. The reason being is that sometimes we can get so caught up with what is going on in our lives RIGHT NOW! We forget our pasts and we don't know what will happen in our futures so we put all our emotions into what is happening at the moment. We don't have that correct perspective that says 'this day, month, year is just one in my life. What is happening to me today will not happen always'. A timeline will show us-in black and white-how life has its ups and downs but how God always works things out. I think it is very important for us to have this correct perspective to be able to mature as Christians.

    For instance, I can worry and fret and be condemned that I am not really serving in God's Kingdom as much at the moment as I used to. Yes, I travel with my husband some, work in the nursery at church and speak and sing here and there. But I have been accustomed to working full-time among the saints of the church. So I could beat myself up by pointing out that I am not doing the same now. But then I realized that now, at this moment and season of my life, I am able to pray, read and study and write sooo much more than I was able to do at that time. 

    My point is, live the life God has given you today! Don't constantly be worrying about what life you had yesterday or last year. Don't put God down by fretting about your future-is this gonna happen? is that gonna happen? In the Bible it says, "Do whatever you do with all your heart as to the Lord."  Jn.9:4 says, "All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the One who sent me (Jesus)."

    We have a very close family friend who just graduated from nursing school. Although he had his parents', church and friends' support, it was still a very complicated and trying time in his life. He actually had to give up being a youth pastor and cut back on his church attendance to enable him to have the time that he needed to study. Now, he could've gotten depressed thinking he was stepping away from God and that he was a bad person. But we encouraged him-at this time in his life-to put his education first (not before God but before his church commitments) and the time would come for him to be free to serve God's people once this extreme schooling time was over. 

    God knows who you are, where you are and what your future holds. He knows your past, your present and has already worked everything out for you in your future! Put all you've got into your right now! God only asks for our best in whatever we do. Even if it simply sweeping the stairs on a rainy winter day.