Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just words...

About 12 months ago, we were looking at the beginning of 2010. I heard a radio program that encouraged people to find one word that would encapsulate the new year. Almost immediately, I knew what my word would be - hope.

Hope. According to the dictionary, hope means to believe, desire, or trust; the belief that events will turn out for the best. I liked that. Most definitely, hope would be the word for 2010. Little did I know just how much I would need that word, of how greatly my hope would be tested.

Before the thaw of spring could bring new life, my hope began to be tested. One of the first trials came when the company my husband worked for closed its doors without notice. Like most families, we lived paycheck to paycheck and now that paycheck had been cut in half. Still, I knew God would provide. At least, I thought I knew, but as the weeks stretched into months with no prospects in sight, I found myself paralyzed with fear. I didn't see how God was going to work this one out. Eventually my husband did find work, but it is very hard on him physically and like most jobs, doesn't pay what he had been making. Still, we've tried to console ourselves that at least it is a job.

I felt at times like I was holding on by the very tips of my fingers...but then the encouragement would come and I was able to renew my grip. It seems that 2010 was filled with trials that challenged my hold on hope. There were trials with my own children, trials with health, trials with friends, trials with students. I'd love to say I was always brimming with hope and good cheer, but it was/is truly a daily battle to hang on. As I sit here, nearing the end of the year, I am realizing just how powerful hope can be. When I thought I was holding on to hope, hope was in fact holding on to me.


Here just a few of the scriptures that carried me through.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God" (PSALM 146:5)

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (PSALM 42:5)
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (HEBREWS 10:23)

So now it's time to look toward 2011, and I find a new word is resonating in my spirit: Anticipation. Dictionary.com gives this definition: realization in advance; foretaste; expectation or hope.

There are also a couple of verses that pretty much sum up what I'm feeling now:
Romans 8:18 (The Message)
18-21That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
Isaiah 43:18 - 19 (Message)
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, ... rivers in the badlands."


Yes, the word for this year is most definitely "anticipation."

May your new year be filled with anticipation of what God will do!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Waiting for Christmas

Christmas is less than 24 hours away and my son is bouncing off the walls. He can hardly contain himself...he is rotating between me, his dad, and his sister, looking for someone to help him contain his excitement. Since we open one gift every Christmas Eve, he is already bugging us to open that gift NOW since it is technically already Christmas Eve day. The rest of the family is content to lie around in a lazy fashion, slowly preparing for tomorrow's "festivities" and all that entails.

What is the difference? Well, part of it is that my son has been sick with the flu for the past 3 days and now he's finally feeling better. The rest of us have been "getting ready" for a while and to be honest, we are kind of tired.

Some of you are already making the connection. You already see this random thought coming.

I got to thinking, this is a lot like the people who were waiting on the Messiah 2000+ years ago....and those of us waiting today. My son is so excited. He has felt the pain of sickness and now finally sees and feels the celebration of the season. He is like the shepherds or the wise men. Those of us who have been well for a while have worn ourselves out. We are like....well, everyone else! Like a person who has newly realized that Christ came to save us, my son is excited! He wants to move and "DO" something! Those of us who have known "Christmas" for a while have grown weary. We've forgotten what we are working toward...or maybe we've just gotten too tied up in the "working for" part. Those shepherds did nothing but show up. The wise men did do some traveling, but it wasn't like their traveling caused Christ to be born. Even Mary - although I'm sure she had to do some preparation to give birth - it's not like she "made it happen." God did it all....we simply get to respond to the gift He gave.

Today, I pray for each of us to find the excitement of knowing that our Savior has come...that we don't grow weary in the preparation of the event and miss the joy. Christmas - the preparation for that first one required saying yes to whatever God had in store. It required taking whatever was in front of you, even if it was just a simple manger, and dedicating it to His service. It required recognizing that God is with us...and that it meant good tidings of great joy that were to be for all people. It was filled with hope for tomorrow! It required...well, just us to be there to receive.

No wonder my son is so excited! He is finally free from that which held him captive on the couch for three days and he is ready to celebrate! May our hearts recognize that we've been set free from a much greater sickness - that of sin - and now we have been given a gift. Here's hoping your day is filled with the anticipation of the only gift that never gets old, never wears out, never breaks or gets boring - the gift of our Savior.

Merry Christmas, and in an adaptation of the words of Tiny Tim, "God has blessed us, everyone."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't throw yourself out at first.

You know, I love watching sports of every kind. Not on tv, mind you. I like to be there live and in person. Maybe it's my inner athlete that never learned to play sports, maybe I just love watching people; but for whatever reason, I love watching sports - especially when kids are involved. They still believe they can do anything....and perhaps they can. They believe that, even if they aren't all that good right now, they are just one throw, run, hit, or jump from greatness.

One of my most favorite memories is of a T-ball game I attended years ago. In that game, I watched a little girl do something that has stuck with me since. This tiny powerhouse came up to the plate to bat with all the expertise of a flounder out of water. Her helmet looked a bit too big, the bat looked like a redwood compared to her, and I'm pretty sure they had to stop her and tie her shoes for her before she started to swing. The first swing came - she missed. Then a second - missed again. Once more - it was a tip that sent the ball rolling slowly toward the pitcher. In true T-ball fashion, the entire outfield came running in to try and get that ball, but they simply weren't fast enough...not for that little girl. She ran out and grabbed that ball and then promptly threw herself out at first. She was so proud! She had done what they could not! It took quite a bit of explaining, and I think I remember them giving her another chance, but I will never forget that moment. She actually threw herself out! No opposing team could do what she had done herself.

Therein, of course, lies today's random thought. I'm pretty sure I've been throwing myself out at first...and so have a lot of others around me. We have participated in helping the enemy of our soul in a way that it could not do in itself. It's as if the spirit of discouragement has attached its thorny claws to us and in raspy whispers only we can hear, it tells us over and over again we are not enough. We are not good enough, not smart enough, not cultured enough, not skinny enough, not whatever enough. It reminds us over and over of just how badly we blew it, AGAIN. It plays the stupid words we said over and over again inside our head like a broken record. It tries to convince us that when bad things happen, it is ALWAYS our fault. That we are being punished for being so stupid...so unworthy....so inadequate once again.

I wonder if hermits separate themselves from the world not because of fear of the world, but because they are afraid they will fail and finally be discovered as inadequate...simply not enough. I know I have had times when I felt like I should just crawl into a hole so that I would do as little damage as possible. I say the wrong thing, act too quickly, live too loud, generally stick my foot in my mouth and then for good measure, stick the other foot in as well. I find myself desperately trying to learn what I imagine others must have learned years ago as teenagers, yet I am still trying desperately to discover what the "rules" are. Instead of getting better with age, it seems I'm getting worse! Buying wrong gifts, over doing, not doing enough, doing it too loudly, not speaking up when I should, forgetting the important things, being overwhelmed by the trivial....

It's not everyday, mind you. Some days I feel pretty confident in myself - followed closely by days when I realize just how inadequate I am. Like most, I've had plenty of times in my life when the spirit of discouragement and despair has tried to convince me to "throw myself out at first." That's the enemy's favorite tactic - to remind us just how human and "not enough" we truly are.

Here's the shocker - the enemy is right....to a degree. I am not enough. I am in desperate need of a Savior. I need one who knows me and yet loves me all the same. I long for One who doesn't condemn, and instead speaks life into the cavernous hole in my heart and fills it. I want to be treasured as special...truly special. I want to feel His presence lifting me and reminding me that I am loved. I want one who doesn't remember my mistakes, but instead reminds me of the few times I actually got it right - because I waited on Him. I want Someone who will gently reach out and stop me from throwing myself out at first, before I've really even begun to play the game that day.

Perhaps you are like me this morning. You wake up to that feeling of dread in facing today's game - sure you'll mess it up somehow. I speak against that spirit of discouragement right now. I pray that you will recognize his lies for just what they are - an attempt to get you to throw yourself out at first before you even get started. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a strong mind. He is right there with you, ready to guide your hands, steady your bat, and hit that ball right out of the park....just like your little kid dreams always imagined.

My words cannot fully express what is on my heart, but a song by Mercy Me does a really good job of speaking life.

Days will come when you don't have the strength,
When all you hear is "you're not worth anything"
Wondering if you ever could be loved,
And if they truly saw your heart, they'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful,
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His,
You're beautiful

I'm praying that you have the heart to fight,
'Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long,
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His,
You're beautiful

Before you ever took a breath, long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed, there was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above, you're the one Emmanuel loves
Enough to die

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
In His eyes
You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful
You are treasured you are sacred you are His
You're beautiful,You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful
You are treasured you are sacred you are His.

Today, as you come up to bat, give it all you've got. Don't be afraid that you won't be enough. Don't throw yourself out at first. Instead, know that you are loved....and give it all you've got - for Him who loves you no matter how you feel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f89sRf3BKKU

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the puzzle piece (follow up to just doesn't fit)

Today I shared a video with my 7th graders. It was about the effects of bullying and the tragedy of those who have taken their lives because of it. When the video finished, you could have heard a pin drop in my classroom....not something that happens very often.
I went on to share two stories of my own. One was of a girl in Jr. High who bullied me. Of course that was back in the day when bullying was mainly whispers and veiled threats...nothing like what kids have to endure in this internet age. I was able to muster the courage to face my bully and she backed away.
The second story was of a boy named Michael...also in Jr. High. It started with what was supposed to be the hairstyle that would finally make me look beautiful...and it went terribly wrong. My mother forced me to go to school anyway and you can imagine what that day became. It didn't take long for me to become the brunt of the jokes before the first bell rang. Each taunt and giggle made me want to crawl into a hole and die. Then he did what no one else cared to do.  Michael simply said a kind word that helped me survive. He became a hero in my eyes that day, so much so that I have never forgotten it. I doubt he ever even knew what an impact he made not just for a day, but for my life.  Two kids, both using words - one to crush and another to heal.
After sharing these stories, I reached over and picked up a puzzle , handing each student a piece. I talked to them as I handed out each one. "You know, I don't know anyone who would willingly go back and relive their Jr. High or High School years. Most of us felt like we didn't fit."
As I talked, I watched each student look at their puzzle piece. I continued..."at times, we all feel like we just don't fit. We don't look like the pictures in the magazines (which to be honest, neither do the people in those pictures), we don't feel as cool as someone else, or as smart, or as ________, you fill in the blank. But each of us is an important part of the puzzle. Without us, the puzzle will have a hole in it; the picture just won't be complete. We may hope to be the colorful piece in the middle, or the corner piece that everything else seems to work off from, but no matter where we fit, we are an important part of the picture...and so are all those around us. Even that person that irritates us to no end - without them, the picture would be incomplete."
I watched my students study their puzzle pieces with new interest. They put their names on the back and tucked them away, some into pockets, some into notebooks, some just held tightly in their hands. The rest of the day I noticed different students checking out their pieces, seeing if perhaps theirs fit with someone elses.
This Friday, we will watch the movie, It's a Wonderful Life and when it's done I will remind my students of their puzzle piece. We will even attempt to put the puzzle together. If some have lost theirs, it will only serve to help them see just how needed each person is. As Clarence says in that movie, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
May you realize today just how much you are needed in this crazy puzzle of life....and always remember that even if you haven't yet found your "spot", you fit.....you fit just right.

Jeremiah 1:5 (Message translation) "Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you"


Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNFcunYHqPo
Lovers and Liars website: http://www.loversandliars.com/
This pain will pass anti bully website: http://www.thispainwillpass.com/


Saturday, November 13, 2010

How do they do it?

Okay, I give up. Tell me how they do it. I was watching a movie tonight and noticed as the person walked into their bathroom, there were no ragged towels hanging, no half-full wastebasket, no piles of make up from their teenage daughter, no marks from where their son's aim was off. The entire bathroom looked like a picture out of a magazine!
Then, they walked into their living room. Their couches were perfect! Not a jelly or juice stain on them at all. There were no papers piled up on the end table, no cups or plates left from an after school snack, no chew toys left by the dogs, no frayed blankets used to take a nap....and get this - NO DUST!
It only got worse. They walked into their kitchen to fix a cup of coffee and the counters were spotless! There was not a crumb in sight! No opened loaf of bread sitting on the counter, no plates piled up beside the sink because the kids obviously can't figure out how to work a dishwasher, no bags of chips sitting on the counter, no pile of vitamins, pain killers and medicines in a basket next to the coffee pot. Their refrigerator only had a couple of notes on it! It wasn't covered with pictures, invitations, schedules, appointments, and papers with good grades. They didn't even have one of those "Is it worth it" magnets that's supposed to help keep you from over-eating. (Those don't work, by the way.)
So I want to know. How do they do it? How do they keep their lives in such order when mine is in constant chaos? How can they walk into their laundry room that is so spotless they could make a commercial? Mine is filled with baskets of clothes waiting for their turn in the washing machine, socks that have long since given up hope I will actually find their mate, and the rat that my son decided he doesn't like so it has now become my pet. We won't even talk about my bedroom or the kid's rooms.
So how do they do it when I obviously haven't got a clue how to pull it all together. I'm pretty sure I just wasn't born with the organized gene. My desk at work is usually piled high with papers and whatever is coming next. My car is basically a purse on wheels...and sometimes a changing room. My life is filled to the brim with chaos. I tell people I'm not ADHD, I'm just HD - High Definition. But I have to admit, I'd really like a little order in my world. I enjoy coming home and settling into the peace and calm. I really like seeing things in order, but that's tough when you're surrounded by so much stuff.
Maybe it's that I try to hang on to too much. I keep things in hope that someday I'll find a use for them. I hang on because I'm afraid I might need it someday. I hang on because it cost so much I hate to just get rid of it. I hang on because I don't know how to let go. Unlike the people in the movies, I am not only dealing with life, I'm dealing with years of stuff that comes with it!
Maybe the people in those tv shows and movies simply know how to let go. (That and they live momentarily on a movie set that has existed only a few days as opposed to my home which I've been filling for years!) When they leave that movie set, they leave all that behind....sort of like we'll do when we go to heaven one day. I don't think I've ever really considered my home as a temporary location before, but it makes sense. This is not my real home, it's just a holding spot for me while I complete my mission. There's no real need to hang on to all this stuff because, as they say, I've never seen a moving van behind that hearse.
So, I'm going to work a little harder at letting things go. I don't really need all this "stuff" anyway. As Flylady says, stuff is Something That Undermines Family Fun. I don't want to spend my time taking care of the stuff, I want to spend it with my family and friends. It's time to simply simplify.
Now if I can just figure out how to get my kids to use the dishwasher and improve their aim.

For those interested in checking our Flylady, here's the site: http://www.flylady.net/

Matthew 6:19 - 34 (Message translation)
A Life of God-Worship

"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both. If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

Friday, November 12, 2010

As long as I don't look in the mirror....

I have no idea how it happened. I was just minding my own business and somehow an old woman came and took my body hostage. The thing is, it happened so gradually I didn't notice. I was busy being a mom and a teacher and learning about God and who I am and then one day I looked around and my children were looking very grown up. This did catch my attention because I knew I hadn't changed. Oh sure, I noticed my pants felt a little more snug than they had and I had aches and pains now and then; but I knew I was still just a little over 28 years old, still discovering just how much God truly loves me and finding my way in the world. In my head, I'm still just a girl; and I can pretty much keep that delusion going until I pass a mirror. That's when things get ugly. Instead of that young girl, an old(er) woman is staring back at me. What's even scarier is that she looks a lot like my mom! Wow. When did that happen?

To be honest, I find that I'm avoiding those mirrors now days. I'd rather live in the delusion in my head of who I am and who I've become....but sometimes you just have to give a good stare. I mean, I have to fix my hair in the morning. I have to make sure my shirt (and not my skirt) is tucked in when I leave the restroom. I have to make sure I don't have spinach caught on my teeth after lunch. Sometimes you have to take a good look at who you really are.

The Bible talks about how we look into a mirror and then promptly forget what we've seen. We seem to be more content with who we like to believe we are than what is really there. But that mirror is important. It reminds us how much we truly need a Savior. It reminds us that this life is but a breath and there is so much more to look forward to. It reminds me to put my trust in Him. That mirror helps me see myself not as I think I am, but for what I truly have become. Those lines on my face...do they mark laughter or frowns? The gray in my hair, does it speak of wisdom or fatigue? Do I stand strong and filled with hope, or am I hunched over with the weight of worry and fear? Do I see what others see?

I try to tell myself that mirrors aren't all bad. Thanks to mirrors, I don't walk around in a mini skirt thinking I still have the legs of an 18 year old. (Makes me kind of wonder if some people even OWN mirrors.)  I don't walk out in public with my skirt tucked into my underwear. Thanks to my mirror, my teeth, while not magazine model white, at least don't have spinach on them. (Oh who am I kidding...at least they don't have chocolate cookies on them!)  My mirror also helps me work on areas that, to be honest, need work! And my mirror helps me to grasp just brief this life on earth truly is.

For now, I will try not to dread looking in that mirror . I want to see what others see when they look at me.  I will also be honest and admit that it makes me happier than ever that God looks not on the outward appearance, but at my heart. Hmmmm, I wonder if that heart looks as young as it feels?

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Cor. 13:12

"Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like." James 1:22-24 (The Message)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Welcome to Jr. High

I am one of the lucky few in the world. I actually get to spend at least 8 hours of every day smack dab in the middle of Jr. High. I can almost hear you gasp in amazement. I know, you are jealous. You wish YOU could spend each day knee deep in drama, hormones, pimple cream and books. It's almost like living in a green house of emotions! Nothing is ever minor. It's just one big life crisis after another. It's just so - Jr. High!

Truthfully, I don't think I've ever met anyone who would willingly go back to their life during the Jr. High years. Just the mention of the words are enough to make grown men shudder and seemingly confident women break out is a cold sweat! It's almost as if when they escaped that time period they were set free! The one thing they knew was that they NEVER wanted to go back.

I recently asked my students what were the toughest parts of being in Jr. High and the answers ranged from pressure from parents to pressure from friends. They deal with mean girls/guys and tests and tough teachers and fickle friends. They are tired and excited and bored and frightened....sometimes all in the same day. In addition, the expectations of those around them seem to, at times, overwhelm these young teenagers. I think every day must be one constant battle of learning who they are and what they can and cannot do. They feel more grown up than they are and yet at times lapse back into being just a kid. They try to wrap their minds around lessons in math, language, history, computers and science all while juggling moods that can be far more frightening than the Tower of Terror roller coaster ride. Oh, and just to make things more interesting,  they are surrounded by hundreds of others dealing with the very same things. Oh yeah, Jr. High is one wonderful/rough place to be.

So often I want to tell my students to just hang in there. Jr. High is NOT the real world. It will be over soon! Yes, they may be dealing with difficult people, even difficult teachers, but it won't last forever. Before they realize it, it will be over and they will move on. The things that seem so huge today won't even be a blip on the radar of their lives in a few years.

And then I heard it. That nudging voice of the Lord inside me saying "That's what I've been trying to tell you." I am still stunned when I think of the simplicity of those words because right then it hit me....it's all just "Jr. High."

The things I am dealing with, which may be tough, are still really just a stage of life. They will pass far more quickly than I realize and I'll move on. My goal is heaven...that's what's really real. Everything else is just Jr. High,.Once we reach heaven, we'll be able to look back and see just how Jr. High it really was. We'll see things we wished we'd known then that we know now. We'll see places where we were doing better than we thought, and we'll see things we wish we could have changed. We'll realize we were surrounded by others who were going through their own Jr. High. Mostly, we'll look back and realize - we don't want to ever go back!

Life is definitely much better now than it was in Jr. High....and that gives me hope. If my life now, even with all it's trials, is that much better than Jr. High; then how much more wonderful must heaven be?

For me, this has been such an eye opener. Almost every day, I find myself laughing and saying, "It's all just Jr. High." Graduation day is going to be something else!

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amplified Bible)

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Murdered

Be forewarned...this one won't be a funny blog.

This has been a difficult week. A friend, a sister in Christ, was reported missing at the beginning of the week and found two days later - dead. While the local news broadcast that the body had been found, very little else was reported - which of course left room for more questions and rumors to abound. Was it suicide? Was it murder? What had happened? How?

Some felt asking the questions was wrong. They urged to offer the family privacy, which is completely understood. However, the questions continued to brew....People weren't trying to be nosey; they were scared. In addition to dealing with the death of someone known throughout the community, there was a subtle fear linked to the unknown questions of "how." Mingled with their grief was a new element - fear.

People began to look over their shoulders as they walked into the local Walmart. Returning home after dark was no longer just an ordinary event. Going for a walk in the neighborhood somehow didn't seem as casual anymore. I, personally, even considered getting a tazer for protection of me and my family. I started going into full "mama bear mode", ready to protect my babies from some unknown killer.

Then slowly, it became evident that the unthinkable had happened. My friend had taken her own life. For whatever reason, she decided that she could no longer take part in this life here on earth, and she left. Why? I don't know.

After a week of worry, I realized there was no stranger who abducted my friend and carried her away from her family and friends. There was no burglary gone wrong. There was no crime. There was no murderer for us to hunt down and bring to justice. There was ..... nothing. While my thoughts about my friend's death made me sure there must have been a murderer that took her life, the facts said she took it herself.

Then today, a thought hit me. Maybe I was right the first time...there was a murderer, a murderer as old as time who has shown his work throughout the ages. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) He fires darts toward our minds in hopes they will somehow find a chink in our armor and fester into torture no man can imagine. Then, just like any other predator, he lies to us and swears us to secrecy...telling us it's our fault we feel this way, our fault that we are broken and fighting a battle inside, our fault we aren't perfect. Just like the predators we hear about on tv, this one come in darkest hours to further torment us and pull us deeper and deeper into his captivity. And his greatest weapon - silence. He convinces us that we dare not share our thoughts with anyone. He makes very sure he keeps us "alone". This killer doesn't come in the shape of a human, but he is a killer all the same.

I wish I had known my friend was hurting, wish I had known the battle she was fighting...wish I could have helped her before she was killed. We say soft words like "she took her life", but the truth is, she was murdered...murdered by the one who would love to kill us all. Why do I think the fight is any less real when the enemy is spiritual - a being without flesh and bone? Why am I not just as ready to hunt him down in his hiding places and reveal him for the monster he is? I know that one day he will stand before the Judge and face his judgement, but in the meantime I want to make sure he doesn't find a way to kill again. I'm pretty sure buying that tazer won't protect me or my family against this enemy, but I know where to find a weapon that will....I plan on using the same sword Jesus used - the Word of God.

Wish I had some funny words to share with this blog, but there are none. Instead, I think I'll go and sharpen my sword. Oh, and one more thing....I'm going to make sure I have someone who can fight along side me...and I can fight along side them. This is not a battle I want to face alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 (Contemporary English Version)

If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.


Ephesians 6:12-17 (Contemporary English Version)

12We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. 13So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day [a] comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm. 14Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God's justice protect you like armor. 15Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. 16Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Let God's saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God's message that comes from the Spirit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I know best....I think

Ever have those times when you just wish someone would listen to you? I mean, I know best - right? I'm sure my opinion on how to do things is the best, that's why I chose it to be my opinion! If I didn't think it was best, I'd choose something else! But still no one listens - especially not my kids.
As a parent, I find myself constantly trying to tell my kids what to do. It's not that I want to boss them, I just can see things they can't see and don't want them to make some of the foolish mistakes others (including myself) have made. If they would just LISTEN, life would be SO much simpler. But they don't, at least not always. I've got to tell you, it's more than a little frustrating! I know best! I think.....
All this got me to thinking about how God deals with us. There is no question that God knows best....He knows the past, the present and the future all at the same time. He knows what our actions will bring - yet He allows us to make wrong choices all the same. Let that sink in a minute. He knows what our choices will bring, good or bad, and yet He allows us to choose all the same. He tells us the guidelines, then lets us make our own decisions. He also allows us to deal with the consequences of those decisions - good or bad. In the process, we either learn to love His direction more or get mad at Him for allowing us to make our own choices.
As a parent, I struggle with this. I want to not only tell me kids what is best, but help them out when they make wrong choices. Makes me wonder if I know what I'm doing after all. I want to save them from themselves....and in doing so I'm afraid, perhaps, I'm keeping them from really growing up at all.
There is a second part to this "allowing them to make mistakes" that is even harder - the loving them no matter what part. When they break my heart because of wrong choices, can I still love them? When they embarrass me because of their behavior, can I still love them? If they do things that bring shame to the family name, can I still embrace them in love yet never make an excuse for their behavior?
God allows us the freedom to make our own choices and loves us even when those choices break His heart. He loves us so much, He is willing to delay judgement in order that we might finally "get it" and start listening once again to Him. He loves us enough to let us make mistakes and even suffer from our own foolishness so that we can learn.
Those of us who have messed up pretty badly can recognize true love. True love holds us even when we push away. True love weeps with us over our mistakes and foolish choices, but allows us to learn in the midst of them all the same. True love is angered when we are harmed by the choices of others, but loves the "others" as much as He loves us. True love rejoices with us when we are set free and find the path we were meant to walk in this journey called life. True love knows best, and yet allows us to choose anyway.
I know best....but I don't know all. I have no idea of the wonderful things my Lord has planned for my child or those around me. All I know is that it is a plan far greater than I could ever dream of or imagine....and somehow God is using everything to work out that plan in our lives, if we will only let Him.
 Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
2 Peter 3:8-9 (Message translation) "Don't overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change."
James 1:22-25"Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action."
Let us never forget this: Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

That's what truly knowing best and loving us all the same really means.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I hate to cook.

I admit it. I hate to cook. I know this makes me appear as less than the perfect wife and mother, but to be very honest, I've never liked cooking! I do however love to eat. My most favorite food is something prepared by someone else...and of course cleaned up by someone else. While we have a number of television shows and even an entire network dedicated to the joys of cooking, I have to wonder if I'm not the only one out there who has this aversion to food preparation. I'm thinking if I were, the number of restaurants and fast food places would be significantly LESS!

Of course, this aversion to food preparation does nothing at all for my health. I will eat a little powdered donut that contains little or no nutritional value before I will take the simple steps to scramble myself an egg. (I do, however, take the time to make the coffee! Some things just can't be skipped.) After a hard day at work, I'd much rather call in a pizza order to pick up on my way home rather than stop by the grocery and choose something to prepare, then take it home and have to cook. In a pinch, I even buy some frozen concoction that only needs to be heated in the microwave. The results, I gain weight, lose energy, and shorten my productivity considerably....and I become less and less adept in the kitchen!

I find I'm having more difficulty even knowing WHAT to prepare so that my diet has variety and value! I may look online just hoping something will tempt my taste-buds and somehow be effortless to prepare! Somehow nothing really fits both options...so if money allows, I go elsewhere and have someone 'feed' me.

This morning, however, I realized my lack of food preparation ability is not just a physical problem. I can easily fall into the same "poor diet trap" with my spiritual diet as well. I'm worn out, so it's easier to feast on the junk food provided by the television rather than pick up a book and read. The thought of picking up my Bible and actually preparing a meal from scratch never even enters my mind. I fill up instead on whatever is placed before me. I may know that it's not good for me, but I'm tired and just want to consume something. Then, just like with those little powdered donuts, I'll feel better for a moment; but it will be followed by a crash and a craving for more of what gave me my momentary high. Talk about a vicious circle!

Occasionally I may pick up some already prepared food by way of a devotional provided online or in a book. These offer nutrition that is much needed, but to be honest, I wonder how it was prepared. How did they know where to look? How did they think to combine the ingredients in this way? I like the 'taste' but I wish I knew how to prepare this for myself.

At least once a week, I go out and eat at a full meal prepared for the masses - church. It is delicious and I leave full and satisfied and happy. Too bad I won't get to eat like that again for an entire week.

I think I'm getting a bit tired of suffering spiritual malnutrition because I'm just too lazy, or afraid, to prepare my own spiritual food. It might mean I have to pass up the powdered donuts and actually dig to find the ingredients, but I'm pretty sure the Bible can provide something that is much sweeter and definitely a whole lot healthier than what the world has to offer. Maybe it's time I started to "read the labels" as it were and figure out just what kind of junk I have been consuming. I can still learn from others, but it's okay to try my hand at preparing food from scratch. I'll be sure to keep a few recipe books, (Bible dictionaries and commentaries), nearby should I get stuck on how to prepare an ingredient for the meal. I'll probably mess up a few dishes, and maybe create a disaster or two; but perhaps in the process I'll also learn how to "feed" myself.

I wonder what will happen to my spiritual energy and zest for life when I start doing this. Who knows, maybe I'll prepare something delicious and even convince my children to try their hand at doing the same!

For now, I think it's time to go and fix some breakfast. Something simple should do for a start.

Psalm 34:8~ "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Psalm 119:103 ~"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
1 Peter 2: 2-3 ~ "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

everything was in black and white

I still remember the where I was standing the day my class and I discussed what life was like 100 years ago. The students were naming things that they used everyday which did not exist 100 years ago. I hated to admit that they didn't even exist when I was in college, but I digress. Finally came the statement, "Everything was in black and white." I paused...."Do you mean the pictures were in black and white?" I asked. No, they thought the world was black and white.
I had to laugh and shake my head in disbelief. At first I wondered how could an 11 year old be so naive'? Then it happened again during a similar discussion...this time the students were two years older! That's when it hit me. These students were basing their conclusion on what they could see, on what they thought they "knew". In both classes, these students were assuming that since the pictures from long ago had no color, evidently the world had no color either. Yes, I know you're laughing, but these kids were sincere in their confusion. They could operate a complex computer and do advanced math, yet in that one area, their understanding was definitely flawed.
As I got to thinking more about it, I remembered that when my sister was a little girl, she got very excited that The Wizard of Oz was going to be coming on TV! She had heard that once Dorothy landed in Oz, everything turned to color! That of course must mean that our old black and white TV would be suddenly transformed and we'd have a color TV at last! Yes, the confusion existed even in my own family....because it is normal.
As an educator, we learn that children are not really capable of abstract thought up to a certain age. Oh, we may think they understand the difference in pretend and real, but probably less than we realize. Some concepts, such as spiritual ones, are very difficult for them to grasp. As children grow and mature, they reach a stage when they can make the connection....understand the "color" of the situation as it were.
What strikes me is, as adults we think we have matured past all that. We think we now understand...but do we? In the 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Message translation), it says, "We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!" We think that we understand so much about God and about the Christian walk, but do we really? We are basing what we know on our ability to understand....just as my 5th graders based their understanding on life 100 years ago based on the pictures they had seen. But God is so much beyond our comprehension!
To think that I have the audacity to try and tell God how He should go about "fixing" things. I am basing all that I know on what I can understand, and the older I get the more I realize how little I really understand!  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
All this makes me wonder how many times have I said something that makes God want to just shake His head in disbelief. In my limited knowledge, am I spouting off something that is the equivalent of thinking life used to be all in black and white? Right now, I'm feeling a bit like a five year old trying to figure out the world....and discovering, guess what - it's in color!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I did it my way....

I'm probably showing my age, but I can't hear the words "my way" without thinking of old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra. For those WAY too young to remember, he sang a song with these words:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way


Regrets I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption


I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way


Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing


To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way

In researching for this blog, I discovered that this song is credited as being the most remade song in history. People from the likes of Elvis Presley to Sid Vicious have recorded it. Snips of the song can be heard on modern films like Happy Feet and a parody of this song was sung on Sesame Street! I even found out that this is the song most often played at British funerals.

So what is it about this song that gives it such a universal appeal? I think the answer is simple....we all want it our way. Even Burger King capitalized on this theme when they came out with the commercials "Have it your way..." To be honest, we sound like a bunch of spoiled two year olds! We all want to do things "our way."

Of course we think our way is best...that's why it's our way. But what would happen if for once we quit doing things our way? Look back at some of the words of that song:
"Regrets I've had a few, But then again too few to mention"
Really? I know I've had mistakes, but the too few to mention part? Gee, I must be above average in that part because I've got a truck load of them!
"Yes there were times I'm sure you knew, When I bit off more than I could chew, But through it all when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out,"
I'm pretty sure that the things I bit off that were too big for me eventually bit back!
And finally, the most telling verse of all:
"To say the things he truly feels, And not the words of one who kneels, The record shows I took the blows, And did it my way"
The last stansa reveals the problem. We don't want to kneel....not even to the One who created us and knows the end from the beginning. We are a proud people, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. This is the pride that caused Lucifer to fall from heaven...the pride that says "I'll do it my way."

Maybe it's time to stop doing things our way. Look around. As I often ask my students, "So how's that working out for you..." It's obvious, our way hasn't been working out for us so well. Maybe it's time to kneel, admit we don't know the answers to everything and start doing things God's way. What would our today look like if we did this? Imagine what tomorrow could be if instead of striving, we finally learned to rest in His will and do things His way. I'm guessing this won't be easy for some of us, but I hope that one day I will be able to say:

And now the end is near, And so I face the final curtain. My friend I'll say it clear, I'll state my case of which I'm certain....I did it His way."

"I am God, the only God you've had or ever will have— incomparable, irreplaceable—From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be," Isaiah 46:10

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bad mood kind of day

The truth of the matter was I was in no mood to be in a good mood. Do you ever have days like this? I started out the day somewhat stressed and by 10 a.m. I was in full-tilt, bad-mood mode. Perhaps it had to do with the huge load of work I saw towering over me. Maybe it was the jam packed schedule that was taunting me for the next few days. It could have even been that my students were all wired for sound and it felt a bit like I was trying to herd bees. Really, I'm not sure there was a good reason why; I was just in a bad mood.
Then someone came to my room to chat. Poor person. I know they came for a shoulder of sympathy and a word of encouragement, but instead they got me. Not just me, but me in my full tilt "You've got to be kidding" sarcastic glory. They came to find a cool drink of water to go on and got a taste of some pretty rancid liquid instead.
In case you're wondering, yes, I feel pretty guilty. Oh, I've tried to reason my way out of it. I even looked in the Bible to see if Jesus ever got fed up with those around Him. I kind of think perhaps He did. Check out Matthew 17:17-18 [Message translation] - "Jesus said, "What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here." He ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well." Still I'm left with the problem of knowing I'm not Jesus and that when the disciples left they had actually gotten what they came for...the boy was healed. I'm pretty sure my friends just left with a bad taste in their mouths.
The fact is, I really don't have an excuse. I am called to live for Christ. Out of me there should be flowing rivers of living water, not some foul stench filled mess. Even if I think I'm having a bad day, that's no reason to let the stream become polluted with my dead attitude.
Did Jesus get aggravated with those who came to Him...the ones who should have known better? Maybe...but He didn't turn them away. He simply helped them and pointed them in the right direction: "When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, "Why couldn't we throw it out?" "Because you're not yet taking God seriously," said Jesus. "The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle."
Do I seriously believe that God has a purpose for me, that He has a plan and somehow my day fits into that plan? If so, then I need to say to my mountain of bad attitude, "MOVE! Stop stinking up the water!"
To be honest, my mood isn't much better this morning....but that's no excuse. I may need to do as Jesus did and get away to pray. I may need to take out the garbage of the day that as piled up in my spirit. I may need to get my eyes off myself! I may even need to ask forgiveness....but I can't allow the rivers of living water to be blocked by me.
The words to "in the Middle of Me" by Todd Agnew pretty well sum it up:

I need a little more sunshine in the middle of rain
Need a little more joy in the middle of pain
Need a little more color in the middle of this plain jane


I’ve looked as deep as I can see
And I think I need a little more You in the middle of me


I need a little more patience in the middle of stress
I need a little more beauty in the middle of this mess
Need a little more substance in the middle of this emptiness


I’ve looked as deep as I can see
And I think I need a little more You in the middle of me


Need more of You and less of me
More of You and little less insanity
More of You and little less complexity


I’ve looked as deep as I can see
It seems more of You is better for me


I need a little more rhythm in the middle of this lazy rhyme
Need a little more spontaneity in the middle of this daily grind
Need a little more truth not music in this world of lies


I’ve looked as deep as I can see
And I think I need a little more You in the middle of me

Here's to trying to make today a better day....no matter what may come my way.

John 7:38 (Amplified Bible)

"He who believes in Me [who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs and rivers of living water."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FIX IT!

Today I read a devotion by Os Hillman that has really got me to thinking. In it he tells this story: "A story is told of a western missionary group that was sitting with a foreign visitor planning strategy for an upcoming evangelistic trip to his country. One man led in prayer, asking for God's help in planning their activities. The visitor was surprised how the meeting quickly moved to the planning phase after only a few minutes of focused prayer.
He turned to the leader and said, "You have taught us the scriptures well in our country. However, I've noticed when it comes to prayer you spend so little time in prayer listening and much time in planning." The western believers were convicted by his words."

I am stunned by this story...stunned by my own life. I have to ask myself, "How often have a pleaded in prayer? How often have I worried? How often have I tried to figure a way out of this current situation? .....How often have I just waited and listened for His voice?"

I am a "fixer". I don't like to sit and wait, I want to "FIX IT!" One of my favorite skits from Saturday Night Live is the one where the guy just yells FIX IT! No real plan, just wants it FIXED! Step one - FIX, Step two - IT, Step three - FIX IT! The thing is, I have no idea how to fix it or even where to begin.

To be honest, I'm not sure I even know how to sit still long enough to hear His voice....I want to give a quick prayer asking for a quick fix and move on about my business. But if I'm supposed to be living like Jesus, then I'm supposed to be about my Father's business, not mine.

Today, will I be able to sit long enough to listen to how God wants to Fix it? Or more telling...will I be able to sit and listen long enough for God to "Fix" me?

Just for fun, I've added this clip from Saturday Night Live. Now FIX IT!!!! http://new.schoolnotes.com/files/dsumrall/Fixit_c.mov

Monday, September 6, 2010

looking for a word of comfort and got an uncomfortable word

If you read yesterday's blog you know I went to a race today determined to "leave it all on the field" so to speak. Well, I didn't leave it ALL on the field, but I almost left my breakfast at a couple of the hills. I'd love to brag and say I ran a good race, but the truth is I did not. I was passed by quite a few people, including one who was walking the course!
As a matter of fact, some of those who passed me I knew for a fact had only been running a few months! I was so mad at myself and I looked to God for some comfort. You know what I mean...I wanted to feel that encouragement that comes when you remember a verse or two that helps lift you up. Instead, I kept remembering the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4. In case you don't have your Bible handy, here's the text: Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer. 3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn't get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. 6-7 God spoke to Cain: "Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won't you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it."
Okay, I wanted an "It's okay, you did your best..." and what I got was a "Don't go pouting because they worked harder than you!"
The truth is, I haven't been putting the work into my running like I once did. Those who passed me, some had only just started running, but they were faithfully training. They were prepared for the race. I simply was not. I could try to find excuses, but it really boils down to the fact that I just had not done the work necessary to do well in this race. When they were training, I was complaining...too hot, too tired, too busy.
I find I do this in life as well. People who have been Christians less time than me, or who are younger than me - it's tempting to sulk and cry out that they seem to be walking more in faith than me...that they seem to have an excitement about the things of God that has grown cold inside me. I can almost hear God saying to me, "Why the sulking? If you do well, won't you be accepted?"
I'm not saying anything about salvation by works by the way. What I'm talking about is realizing that as long as I'm on this earth, I've got to be training. It's easy to let my Bible study slide because of a heavy work load. It's easy to not take the time for prayer and praise because I'm tired. Yes, I can do that and I'll get pretty much the same kind of result I got in today's race - pitiful. Or, I can prepare so that when the races come, I am ready to run.
So now what? Well, I guess I can keep making excuses and finding reasons NOT to train. I can quit running races....neither of these sound like an option I really want. Instead, I think I'll take to heart the second part of that verse: "Why the sulking? If you do well, won't you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it."
I can keep making excuses and hope to get a "that's okay", or I can do well and find the victory I'm looking for. I may have been looking for a word of comfort, but I got an uncomfortable word....and that may make the difference in the future.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I love a sappy movie

I admit it. I'm a sucker for a happy ending, for a feel good story that makes me tear up and believe in something more. I want to be inspired. I think most of us do.
Tonight I sat down and looked for something to watch on tv before going to bed and Facing the Giants was on. I just happened to turn it on at the part where Brock is carrying the kid on his back to what he thinks is the 50 yard line. Those who've seen the movie know he doesn't just make it to the 50....he makes it all the way to the end zone. He'd not only done what he thought he could do....he'd done more than he ever thought he could.
I remember the first time I saw this movie...it was the night before a race and the next day as I ran, I thought about that scene over and over again. I was determined to leave nothing on the field but to give it all I had. I ran one of my fastest times that day....faster than I'd ever imagined I would run and it felt good!
Funny thing is, I have a race tomorrow, too. I know that physically it is in me to run, but my mind doesn't always believe. It quits long before my legs give out....and I wonder how many of life's other races I've quit in because I don't think I have it in me.
It occurs to me that God never calls us to do more than we can...simply more than we think we can. When we are weak, then He is strong. We are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses yelling for us and cheering and telling us we can go on...we just have to keep going on.
Yes, it's a sappy movie, but I like sappy movies. I like to be inspired. I like to be reminded that greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world. I like to be encouraged to give it everything I've got and leave nothing on the field.
Don't know if I'll run fast in tomorrow's race, but I will give it all I've got. God hasn't called me to do anything more than I can....simply more than I think I can. And if it takes a sappy movie to remind me of that, that's not such a bad thing.


He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own accomplishments, but according to his own purpose and the grace that was given to us in the Messiah Jesus before time began. 2 Tim. 1:9

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's not just my pants that don't fit.

Ever have one of those days when you get up and nothing fits? I'm not talking about just your clothes, but it's almost as if LIFE doesn't fit anymore. Nothing is comfortable, and you have no idea what has happened. Of course we can blame it on lots of things...stress, lack of time, lack of motivation, too much to do, lack of support, etc...pretty much what we blame when our clothes don't fit, but we know it's something more.
Lately, I've been hearing this phrase pop up in conversations more and more..."just don't fit." I heard it from my daughter as I watched her try to find her "place" at school, from a friend as she talked about how her daughter tried but just couldn't seem to "fit" with their youth group, and then I heard it from another friend about her daughter. Each girl is very different, yet if you looked at them you'd think they would 'fit' in anywhere. They have lots of friends, people who love them, etc, but they each feel as if they don't fit. Then it hit me....I had heard this same phrase in conversations with adult women about themselves! They were uncomfortably admitting that they just didn't feel like they fit in.
Wow. I can understand why teenage girls feel that way sometimes, after all - they are in high school (a place I truly wish I could somehow fast-forward my own children through!) But to hear my adult women friends say this too, well, it got me thinking. Evidently it's not just our daughters that feel like things just don't fit. So I sat and tried to figure out what is wrong.
I know that in today's society we are going in such a rush that we have little time to feel connected. We are all like a bunch of spinning tops, occasionally bumping into each other but rarely if ever truly connecting. It reminds me of my son's Beyblades. You wind them up as fast as you possibly can and then pull the zip cord to watch them bump furiously into each other and then back into the boundries around them. Eventually they run out of spin and fall helpless to the floor. I know I've felt a lot like I was spinning lately!
It also reminded me of something I realized during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, five years ago. While that hurricane brought huge devastation, it also forced us all to stop for a while...and to be honest - it was good. Before the hurricane we were all on treadmills going as fast as we possibly could go. While we might have thought about stepping off, we couldn't without falling flat on our faces. Have you ever tried to "step off" a treadmill at top speed? Plus, if we had - it would have done no good because the rest of the world was still on their treadmills! But when the hurricane came, it "unplugged" all the treadmills. We all stopped. Neighbors renewed friendships with neighbors, families spent time with families, we all spent time just being for a while. True, it was tough. We were in survival mode, but somehow we came through it stronger. Then someone turned the treadmills back on and we all started running again....side by side, but at a pace that didn't allow for conversation or friendships.
So, perhaps it is the pace of life that causes us to feel like we don't fit in...but I think it's really something more. I think, perhaps, it is a holy discontent within...that feeling that something is missing. We point a finger outward and try to figure out why we don't fit in our school, church, etc. just like when the clothes in my closet no longer fit I try to blame stress, age, even the washing machine (which must have shrunk them) but really it's just me. The problem isn't out there; it's inside me!
I heard it said that men find their identity in what they do, but women find theirs in being appreciated and accepted for who they are. We want to feel loved for who we are...it doesn't matter if you are the head cheerleader or the artist or the athlete or the girl named most likely to succeed, or the girl who thinks she really doesn't have a niche. We want to feel special just for who we are. Deep inside, all of us feel like we don't fit until we find our acceptance in Christ. I'm not talking about salvation....it's more than that. It is a sold out discipleship. A holy discontent with life that drives us to Christ to find our place in Him. It's that look from our Heavenly Father that let's us know we are special to Him. To borrow the words from a song by Jason Gray, it's got to be, " More like falling in love than something to believe in; More like losing my heart than giving my allegiance; Caught up, called out - come take a look at me now..."
So what's the point? The point is I think we're all pretty much in the same boat. We all have times we feel like we just don't fit but we never say it cause we feel like we're the only ones....but we're not. The woman next to you in the church pew or serving with you on the PTA or in line next to you in the grocery store - they probably all feel just like you. Why, I bet even those fancy movie stars and models feel that way! We are all just like those teenage girls in high school feeling like we just don't fit - that is until we find our place, our approval, our fit in Christ. Then maybe, just maybe, we realize we're all feeling the same way long enough to stop spinning and help each other find the way.
We're all in this together....know that at least one other person is truly praying that you find where you fit in Christ and the contentment of knowing your truly "belong". While I'm at it, I'll throw in a prayer that all your clothes fit a little better too - even your skinny jeans! Of course, that would take a miracle!
Never ended a blog this way, but I love you guys....we're all in this together. {hugs to all}

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Is God a Liar?

I almost titled this blog, "God is a liar", but I didn't want to give those who know me a heart attack.

This has been a week filled with reminders that God can be trusted...He never lies.

I have a facebook friend who recently asked the question, "Can God lie?" and it got me thinking. I mean, I immediately knew the answer, but when I started to write my response, I realized I didn't act as if I did. While I know that God cannot lie, I find myself worrying about things and lying awake at night trying to figure out how to make life what I think it should be....in essence, I'm calling God a liar and not taking Him at His Word. If I were, I'd be sleeping like a baby instead of tossing and turning trying to figure out how we are going to make ends meet or what tomorrow will hold. See what I mean?

A quote by Max Lucado caught my attention this week. He said, "Our problem is not so much that God doesn’t give us what we hope for as it is that we don’t know the right thing for which to hope." I can really identify with this. I remember times in my life when I have been disappointed with God. While part of me wanted to believe in His promises, a bigger part of me wanted to pitch a two-year-old fit. Now, if you've never been around a two-year-old perhaps this is a foreign concept to you, but for all of us who have ever dealt with a two-year-old who was not getting what they wanted, the picture is pretty clear. They will pout, scream, bargain, yell, plead.....pretty much anything to get their way. If you dare to act as if you know what is best for them...well, let's just say earplugs and a strong will come in very handy in times like that.

I can say this, because I remember very well a time in my life when I was disappointed with God. Tragedy had struck and to be honest, it just wasn't fair! I was being good and others weren't and yet somehow they were being allowed to hurt me! I did all the predictable 2 year old things....I bargained, pleaded, cried...I even shook my fist at God and told Him if that was who He was, I chose not to serve him. Now if I had been God, a lightning bolt would have made an appearance to straighten this little 2-year-old out! (Good thing I'm not God!) Instead, the very next day God poured out His love on me in such a real way that I knew....I had no idea who He was or how much He loved me. God wasn't unfair, He was simply my Father and He knew what I needed far more than I did. The situation didn't change, by the way, but I did.

So back to the question. Is God a liar? We know, of course, that the answer is no. So why do I act as if He is?My problem seems to come from either my two-year-old self that has placed my hope in the wrong thing, or in the fact that I am rehearsing the problems instead of His promises. It's easy for me to lie in bed and think about the bills or the plumbing or what tomorrow will bring. To lie there and think about His promises takes a bit more discipline on my part. First of all, I've got to know what His promises are and then focus on them! I also have to rehearse in my mind all the times I've seen God be faithful in the past - times He was faithful even when I was faithless. I have to remind myself that God does not lie. I also have to trust that God doesn't really need my help to figure all this out. He knows what tomorrow will bring.

This week, I also had a friend share something with me that resonated in my soul. She said something along the lines of "God has a plan for you that's good....so if it's not good yet, He's not finished." The cake is still baking, the picture is still developing, the quilt is still being sewn..... He's not finished yet.

A song by Josh Wilson called "Before the Morning" came on the radio the other day and pretty much had me in tears before I got to where I was going. It answers the question so much better than I ever could:

"Do you wonder why you have to,
feel the things that hurt you,
if there's a God who loves you,
where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can't see
and all those things are happening
to bring a better ending
some day, some how, you'll see, you'll see

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

so hold on, you got to wait for the light
press on, just fight the good fight
because the pain you've been feeling,
it's just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
and you know where you're going,
you just don't know how you get there
so just say a prayer.
and hold on, cause there's good for those who love God,
life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time,
but you'll see the bigger picture"....

The message has been coming to me over and over this week, so, I guess it's time for this two year old to start acting like I believe what I say I believe. It's time to trust God. Care to join me in the adventure?

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It all started with a bad hair day...

It all started as just another bad hair day. You know the kind, where no matter what you try to do with your hair you hate it. I stood there wishing I looked different and thinking what I wished my hair looked like....If I could choose, I think I'd have Jennifer Aniston's hair....and maybe her eyes. Kind of wish I had her smile, and of course I would love to have her figure. It would be great to have her talent and personality....yep, if I were in charge of making me, I think I'd make me like her.

But instead, I'm me. Kind of ordinary. I guess you could say I'm more of a Kermit sort of person.

As I thought about this, the song "It's Not Easy Being Green" kept running through my mind. You know the one...
"It's not that easy being green

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky..."

I've never really thought about what those lyrics said before, but I think everyone feels that way at times...like they blend into the background. Our culture celebrates the "beautiful people" in so many ways. Television, movies, magazines, even things like facebook make it seem as if everyone is experiencing a world that is far more beautiful and exciting than our own. Maybe I'm the only one, but sometimes I feel like my life falls more into the Kermit catagory, sort of ordinary. Yet we are so much more than that.

"But green's the color of Spring

And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree


When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be"

We all have days when we wish we were smarter, prettier, wittier, or more exciting....but even on those days we can rest assured that we are perfect just the way we are. Our gifts, abilities, and even our limitations are a part of who we are. God created each of us special for such a time as this. It's not even a mistake that you were born when you were born! He made you with gifts that are perfect for today. What a gift to know that you are equipped for whatever may come your way - simply because He chose this time for you...and you for this time.

So even on your bad hair days, rest assured - you are beautiful in His eyes. You are gifted and special and no one else can do what He created you to do.

That just leaves me with one burning question. On her bad hair days, I wonder who Jennifer Aniston wants to be?

Psalm 139: 1 - 16

" O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."