Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Say what you mean...

As we get nearer and nearer to the elections, I'd like to put something "out there." 

When you post opinions about politics on face-book or decide to share those "funny" photos that somehow slam the other party, remember this: If you post something, we will assume it is your opinion and you want us to listen. In return, we should then expect that you are willing to listen to our opinion in return.

In the words of a wise woman: Say what you mean, and mean what you say - but you don't have to be mean when you say it.

I'd like to add, hats off to my many friends who differ from me politically yet they limit their posts to positives about their favorite party rather than resort to name-calling of mine. I have not problem with those who post what they believe...I listen and work to better understand our differences and celebrate our common ground. We all love this country and we're in this together!

Ephesians 4:15

The Message (MSG)
 14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A life that inspires....

I have struggled with this post...not sure that I could really do justice to writing about my friend Bobby Myrick and his home-going. I mean, it's hard to write about someone who was bigger than life like Bobby.

Then yesterday, during the celebration of his life, I was struck by so many thoughts at least a couple were bound to find their way to this page.

I arrived at the church early, knowing that it would be packed. Bobby and his wife Debi have touched so many lives over the years, but I had no idea HOW packed it would be. The parking lot filled and the over-flow filled as well. Honestly, I'm not sure there is a parking lot anywhere in Hattiesburg that could have handled all those who wanted to just say thank-you to this man and his family.

As I climbed the steps, I remembered Bobby from many years before when I was "in charge" of the Children's ministry at the church. In charge - I was doing my best to hear from God, love children and make sure every class had a teacher...definitely not "in charge!" I had one particular group of boys that I just could not keep a teacher for...a group of leaders every one. (That of course means they were a handful and could come up with mischief that I had never imagined!) I don't know if Bobby saw how I was struggling or simply saw the potential in those boys, probably the latter, but when he agreed to teach that class I think I took a deep breath for the first time in weeks. He taught that class for years - moving up with them as they grew. Some Sundays I felt certain that they discussed hunting or fishing or sports more than "God", but years later I know what he really did was model what it meant to be a Christian man for a big group of future men. The lives those boys have gone on to touch speak volumes about how this man invested his life.

As the service began, I sat in a sea of faces - all ages, races, and walks of life. Story after story had us laughing as we celebrated Bobby's life. Still, I was choking back tears - not for him, but for us. And I was inspired. I realized I knew so little of this man, but he had spent his life loving God and people with a gusto that few can muster. He had invested in so many...and that's just the ones who knew about it! He was constantly giving and I'm sure some never knew that he was the one whom God had chosen to bless them. He simply gave without asking for reward or recognition or praise. He did it in his own brash, big grin on his face, bold kind of way. 

And Bobby left this world as he had lived in it....serving others. After retiring, he had started a new ministry - Mercy Mowers. He filled his days doing yard-work for those who could not do it for themselves. This man was being an example of how to live for God right up to the moment when God said it was time to come home. When Bobby walked out of this world, he had been mowing the lawn for an elderly widow. I can't tell you how many have said, "That's how I want to go....serving others and doing something for God."

Yesterday, I was inspired. I was seeing the impact of a life invested in others. I so want to repeat some of the wonderful stories I heard, but I just can't do them justice. Those are stories that don't have to be told - you can see them lived out every day in the lives of those who lived them. The ripples of Bobby's actions will be felt for years...decades...really through eternity.

I want to live a life like Bobby lived. (By the way - his father lived his life that way before him and his wife Debi lives her life this way, too.) This family has lived their lives, not worried about being "Somebody" - they just are. No, Bobby wasn't perfect...maybe that makes me want to live as he did even more. He and his family simply give God what they have and who they are and they don't seem to worry about how it will be perceived by others. They truly love people. Yes, I want to live a life like that...

Thank you Bobby (and Debi and Brother Howard and Ms Alice and Ms Rosemary.) You inspire me to want to live a life unafraid - serving God and investing in the lives of those around me. You inspire me to be myself. You inspire me to get involved in the lives of those around me. You inspire me to live life unafraid. I'm sure you would have been embarrassed to have me say this to you before - you would have just passed it off with that "aagh" you always said...but now you can simply lay this praise at the feet of Jesus along with all the other crowns you took with you. 

A life that inspires.....thank you my friend.

Matthew 25:31-40

New International Version (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separatethe people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdomprepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Click on the following link to hear a song chosen in honor of Bobby and a life well lived. We fall down by Chris Tomlin

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seven years ago....

I've been seeing a lot of posts on face-book this weekend about the irony that this new hurricane, Isaac, is predicted to hit seven years to the day after Hurricane of the most devastating natural disasters many of us have ever had to experience....and I had to smile.

Seven - it means completion. It signals the end of something. Think about it - the week has seven days.  After creating the world, on the seventh day God rested. Seven years of plenty were replaced by seven years of famine (and I'm hoping that also means seven years of "famine" also will be replaced by seven years of plenty!) In the Bible, the seventh year also marked a year of jubilee. Seven - pretty significant number when you think about it.

Personally, I have my own "seven reference" that illustrates this completion for me. Some who know our story know that many years ago we adopted a baby boy and had him for over 7 months when the adoption "went wrong" and we lost him. (Hmmmm - there's that 7 again. Never really noticed that before.) We experienced our own "personal hurricane." To say that we were devastated doesn't even begin to cover the story. All that I knew of God and how life was supposed to work was shaken. My marriage was beaten, my hope was destroyed, and I literally shook my fist at God and told Him if that is Who He is, I did not want to serve Him. 

Anyone who knows God's mercy won't be surprised by what happened next. The very next day, God poured out His love in such a tangible way that He showed me I had no idea Who He is....and the healing began.

No, we did not get some sort of miracle phone call that returned our son to us. Instead, we felt God's love carry us through the next days, weeks, months....years. We grew. We never forgot that sweet child - whose middle name was Isaac by the way - but we learned to lean more and more on Christ and trust that whatever He had for us was worth it all. 

Seven years after we had handed over that sweet baby boy, something happened that became another "timeline" moment of our lives. 

One night while my husband was at work, the phone rang. I had been sitting on the couch eating Oreos and drinking milk so I answered the phone with a semi-full mouth. "Hello" I mumbled. When the caller asked if this was Donna Sumrall, I assumed the voice on the other end of the phone was that of a tele-marketer and to be honest was a little annoyed. Then as the call went on, I realized I was talking to a family member of the little boy we had brought home to be our son so many years before. She had called simply to let me know he was okay...that he was growing into a beautiful young man and that he and his mom were now doing well. She remembered my husband asking that this child be raised to know the Lord, and she just wanted to let us know that he was, indeed, in church and growing to know and love God.

Somehow at the end of this call, I knew a chapter of our life was closing. It was finished. I did not quit caring or praying for this child, but I knew this chapter of our life was done.

Those who know our story also know that the next year we were blessed by God to bring home our sweet daughter and joy and laughter filled our home in a fresh new way. We truly began a new chapter - one that could not have ever happened had we not gone through the previous 7 that could not have happened if we had not allowed God to shape us and grow us and carry that would be so much more precious that we could have ever imagined.

The past seven years, for many, have been like the seven years we went through after losing our son. At times, they have held more pain than we thought we could bear. At times, we have grasped at hope in desperation only to have it seemingly ripped from our hands. We have looked around and wondered how could this be.

I looked it up and among other things, seven in the Bible means refinementThe number seven symbolizes God's perfection, His sovereignty and holiness. In the Hebrew, 7 is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. 

Bible scholars could tell you so many ways that the number 7 is significant....Most people consider it to be a "lucky" number, but I have to be honest. Seven to me will always signal an end and the number that comes right before 8....and 8 signals a new beginning.

I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Isaiah 43:16-21

The Message (MSG)
 16-21This is what God says,
   the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
   who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
   they lie down and then can't get up;
   they're snuffed out like so many candles:
"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.
Wild animals will say 'Thank you!'
   —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
   rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
   the people I made especially for myself,
   a people custom-made to praise me.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Different kind of tired...

Sometimes you just get tired. It's not the "I worked out like a mad-woman and did more push-ups and burpees than I ever thought possible" kind of tired....not the I just cleaned the whole house and mowed the yard kind of tired...not even the I've been up all night working on a special project for work kind of tired. Those tireds all have an explanation and seem like they are sort of worth it. 

I'm talking about the tired that you just can't explain. The tired that you feel when life just doesn't seem to be going the way you thought it would. The tired that makes you wonder why you are doing what you're doing each day, wondering is all the effort really worth it. The tired that just zaps your motivation and makes you want to chunk everything and start over...only you're not really sure what you'd do if you started over.

Lately I've had a moment or two of that kind of tired. It doesn't make much sense and you can't seem to talk yourself out of it. What you need is some encouragement from God, something that lets you know you're on the right track after all.

This week, my son had just such encouragement come his way. Levi has been training for months, hoping for a chance to play quarterback. Every day he runs, works with weights, and spends hours throwing a football through a small hoop in the yard. I have never seen such dedication in a 14 year old. But even with that dedication, I have seen in his eyes and heard in his voice that he was getting "tired." No matter how hard he tries, the coach keeps him on defense; and to be honest my son seems to be getting discouraged. There is nothing like discouragement to make you just plain TIRED.

I had tried to encourage my son. I tried to explain that the coach must do what's best for the team and he is NEEDED on defense, but you know, hearing things like this from your mom when you feel like your dream is dying doesn't really help all that much. I mean, after all - she's MOM! What could she possibly know?

Yesterday, however, I think my son got a word of encouragement that made a difference - because he felt it was from God. As he was running, he started thinking "Why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard and no one cares? Is it worth it? Is it worth spending hours training? I really need a sign that all this is not in vain." (Okay, I'm not sure Levi used a phrase like "in vain" but the idea was the same.)

As he continued on his run, an older gentleman who lives in our neighborhood stopped him. He said he'd been watching him train every day and he was really impressed with all his hard work. Then he went on to say that he was getting his grandson a helmet for his birthday and it was going to be signed by Brett Farve....and he wanted my son to sign it too. Wow. 

Levi talked to him for a few more minutes and then continued on with his run...but there was something different. Hope had now returned to his run. That "tired" had been replaced with a reason to run. He'd gotten encouragement from God. 

I don't know how many of us are "tired" right now. Sometimes the journey can be long. We feel like we're on about mile 20 of a marathon and we're wondering why we started this run to begin with...wondering if we're really on the right track. Maybe we need to do like my son did...maybe we need to confess our frustration and take our "tired" to God and just ask for the encouragement to go on. God knows exactly what we need to put the spring back into our step...we just have to ask. Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8.10). David said to the Lord, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16.11). When we get into the presence of the Lord we will find all the strength and encouragement we need.

Happy running my friends.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
3-5All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.

Psalm 68:35
35 A terrible beauty, O God,
      streams from your sanctuary.
   It's Israel's strong God! He gives
      power and might to his people!
   O you, his people—bless God!

Matthew 4:4

 4Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

God made....

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote 4 years ago, but it came to my mind today. Today my daughter registers for college....the time has slipped away so quickly, but she has only grown more dear to me with each and every passing day.

We have always known what a blessed family we were. Since our daughter entered our lives through adoption over 13 years ago, we have been a family living with the constant reminder of God’s grace toward us. When we were blessed three years later with her baby brother, we knew life would never be the same......

Most families begin the same way, man and woman fall in love, get married and have children. For us however, things didn’t follow the pattern they were supposed to. I met my husband in Jr. College. He was sitting on the air conditioner - right above the sign that said “Do not sit on the air-conditioner” and it was love at first sight. Of course, it took us 5 more years to get to the married part. Soon after we married, we decided to start our family…only things didn’t go according to plan. Things rarely go according to my plan.

Our story isn’t unique, many couples go through the heart-ache of discovering that having a baby isn’t an option for them. Since we realized that the love in our heart didn’t require that the child be “flesh of our flesh”, we decided to adopt. Unfortunately, the adoption fell through and we found ourselves heartbroken and questioning God. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t hearing our prayers….why it seemed that the world was crashing down around our shoulders and there was nothing we could do except ache. Life lost its color and joy. Laughter left my heart for a very long time. God did slowly heal the hurt, but there was still that empty space in me that longed for a child. Since I wasn’t willing to be hurt like that again, I often said that God would have to send a telegram telling me Himself that we were to adopt again. Eight years later that telegram came in the form of an invitation to a Bethany Christian Services banquet.

At that banquet, we heard adoptive parents speak, a birth mom speak, and we saw countless pictures of happy children who had found their forever families. Before the night was over, we knew that we were on the road to adoption once again. Nine months later, our daughter came into our home. With her came laughter like refreshing water to a thirsty soul. I never knew how much I could love someone until I held her in my arms. I also realized what a sacrifice her birth mother had made in choosing adoption and I prayed for her….I still do.

As our daughter grew, we were blessed with joy that words could not express. She was and is the apple of our eye. We talked wherever we went and she was becoming quite expressive with her language. As we would drive, I’d point out the beautiful colors in the sky and ask her, “Who made the sky?” She would respond, “God made the sky.” I just knew that we had a child prodigy on our hands.

At the park, I’d point out the flowers and ask, “Who made the pretty flowers?” Her response would be, “God made the flowers.” What a joy! My child was so smart!

When we’d see butterflies, I’d point out their beautiful colors and ask, “Who made the butterflies?” She’d answer, “God made the butterflies.” Obviously, my child was destined to become a spiritual giant!

Then one day, I walked into the living room to find the floor covered with crayons! I put my hands on my hips and said, “Who made this mess?” She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said very matter-of-factly, “God made the mess.”

I still laugh when I think of that day, but her words make me realize afresh and anew just what a miracle working God we serve. Through all the turmoil, He brought laughter. He gave us hope where there had been only heartache. Where there was emptiness, He brought fullness of joy. Where there were wounds, He brought healing. He truly did give me the oil of joy for the ashes of mourning. Though I did not deserve it, He gave us the most precious gift and He did what no one else could do.

No, God didn’t make the mess….but God certainly can take the mess and make a miracle.

Isaiah 61: 1-3a
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives 
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor 
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, 
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Someone is watching you...

A friend told me the other day that she "stalked" me on face book. That has kind of rolled around in my head the past week and so I thought I'd look up the meaning of the term. According to the dictionary, to stalk means: 

1. To follow or approach (game, prey, etc) stealthily and quietly
2. to pursue persistently and, sometimes, attack (a person with whom one is obsessed, often a celebrity)

Okay, I'm PRETTY sure she didn't mean she's planning on attacking me. She simply reads my posts on Facebook! (Sure hope that's all she meant! LOL) Anyway, I got to wondering if I "stalk" people on facebook, too.

Of course, I do the normal keeping up with old friends, engagements, weddings, birthdays, new babies, and growing kids kind of thing. Over the years I've been blessed with so many good friends that have since moved all over the country. Thanks to Face book, I feel like they still live close by and can keep our friendship going despite the miles between us. 

There are also posts I rarely pay attention to. These include game notifications (which somehow pop up no matter how many times I turn them off;) bathroom photos - seriously, I don't really want to see pictures of you in your bathroom unless of course you have GREAT decorating sense and I want to copy what you've done with the place; pictures of what you are eating - unless you are inviting me to join you or sending some to me in a doggy bag; and mean-spirited political pictures - I won't even dignify those with an explanation.

Then there are those people I guess I do kind of "stalk." Some are the friends I don't get to see very often anymore, and some are people I see almost all the time. Thanks to face book, I "follow" their posts on a regular basis. They usually fall into one of the following categories (in no particular order):

Encouragers - these are the people I can count on to post an encouraging word each day. It is almost as if God uses them to speak those words that are like a cool drink of water in the desert heat. It may be a funny picture or a Bible verse, or just a word in due season. There just aren't enough "encouraging words" now days, so I am especially thankful for these friends.

Different points of view - I will admit to checking in regularly with my friends who differ GREATLY from me with their point of view on life. Most often these people tend to fall into politically different points of view. I find that while I sometimes get angry at what they post, by reading those posts I allow myself to realize that not everyone sees things the same way...not even people I love. Yesterday I saw a quote by Rick Warren that I really liked. It said, "Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." That pretty much explains things. I want to know what you think and believe, even if I don't agree with you. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? I don't want to argue or shout, I just want to listen. If I feel you will listen in return, I MIGHT comment. Otherwise, I'll just pray.

Wisdom: Oh how I love to find those people who are able to, in a short comment, bring clarity to a situation. I count myself as blessed that over my morning coffee I can find friends who have posted something that helps me begin my day with focus on what is really important. You friends are rare indeed!

Laughter: I list these friends last but they certainly are not least. Sometimes after a long hard day, it is that unexpected laughter that gives me the strength to go on. The phrase or picture that makes me really "Laugh Out Loud" is such a treat. I must add, the ones that do this best are never mean spirited or aimed at another person. They just look at life in such a way that the stress of the day slips away and I smile. Thank you so much for sharing your gift for making others laugh. It may not be listed as one of the "great spiritual gifts" of the Bible, but I bet Jesus likes it a whole lot!

So, I guess in a way I am a stalker. I am "watching" your page and you are blessing me in ways you did not know. Thank you....for through it all you are helping me "stalk" the one I want to follow most of all - Jesus. In each of you I see a part of my Lord and you make me want to draw closer to Him.

I guess if I have to find a way to close this blog, it would be simply this: Thank you so much to my friends. You bless me more than you know. Also, I will remind myself to watch what I say on face book....someone may be stalking me...and since I call myself Christian, they are also deciding if they really want to know the One whose name we carry.

See you on Facebook, my friends!

Ephesians 4: 

1-3In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. 4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
 7-13But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.....He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please...God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Titus 3: 1-8

1-2Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God's people should be bighearted and courteous. 3-8It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.