Monday, May 25, 2015

What if....

*Today I was looking at facebook and seeing everyone brag on their children and their end of the year accomplishments. I love looking at these, but it got me wondering...what if?

What if we bragged on our spouses like we do our kids?

What if we cheered for our husbands like we do our favorite teams?

What if we prayed for our husbands like we do for our friends?

What if we kept up the little details about our husbands like we do the contestants on idol?

What if we honored them as Christ tells us to, loving them as our own body?

What if we spent some time thinking about why we fell in love with them in the first place?

Just thought I'd pose these questions today that I am asking myself....what if.

Ephesians 5:22
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.

*Repost from 2014

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Don't just sit there....READ!

This week I was having a discussion in my class about the importance of reading. We talked about an article we had read in which the author mentioned that slaves were not allowed to learn to read. Their owners did not want them to be educated for fear they would cast off the shackles of slavery. George Washington Carver served as an inspiration in his desire to learn, and Dr. Ben Carson's story of how his life was turned around when his mother started making he and his brother read was a part of the discussion that day.

I then asked how many of my students planned to do some reading this summer, and only about half raised their hands. I then gave them the following hypothetical situation. 

Me: Let's say I am a registered gun owner and I am sitting at home with a gun on the table beside me. I know how to use it. It's right beside me. Suddenly, a bad guy comes in my door to take me captive (because we all know there is a HUGE demand for little old ladies.) He takes me out the door and I am now his prisoner. The end.

Kids: That's stupid!

Me: Why?

Kids: Cause you have a weapon right there beside
you. Pick it up and use it!

Me: Exactly...well, ignorance is at the door and it wants to take you captive and you have books sitting right there beside you. PICK THEM UP AND READ!!!! 

I came home pretty proud of that illustration. I even had one student tell me the next day that I had convinced him. He had picked out a book to read this summer! Yep, I was really feeling good about that "Boo-ya! Score!" moment.

Then,  I started to think about my own life. I already have a book picked out to read this summer dealing with teaching, but it's a different book that is calling me to open it and read. This is the one book that is written by the Author that truly loves the reader. It is, of course, the Bible. 

Oh, I've read the Bible for years, but this summer I'm hoping to do something I've never really done it like I would a novel - straight through. I found an inexpensive chronological Bible with margins big enough for notes and I'm going to read, simply read. I may even try to read it twice!

The thing is, this book can do so much more than hold ignorance at bay. It can do more toward setting the captive free than any ordinary book can possibly hope to do. This book is more than just words; it is life.

I'm actually looking forward to doing nothing this summer except a little cleaning and exercising and a lot of reading. I expect I will be different by summer's end, simply because I picked up the greatest "weapon" ever devised - a love letter from the Creator of the universe to His creation.

How about it? Want to see what happens when we actually fight back by using the "weapon" lying right beside us on the table? I have a feeling if we do, it will be a summer that we, and our enemy, will never forget.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (MSG)

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Friday, May 15, 2015

When the light goes out....

As the most people in the nation know, this past weekend my small Southern town suffered a tragedy that has rocked our community. Two young officers, 34 year old B.J. Deen and 25 year old Liquouri Tate lost their lives while protecting our city. I haven't written about this simply because I don't have words. 

Our community has responded to this tragedy in a way that has made me proud. People of all ages and colors have come together to honor these officers and all our men and women in blue. In fact, in a symbolic gesture of support, homes all around the city and surrounding areas have even put blue light bulbs in their porch lights to shine in honor of these men. On my way home tonight, I noticed a neighboring home with blue lights and I had one of those "random thoughts." What happens when the light burns out?

Right now, we are standing together in unity and love...and I have been thinking that the best way we can honor these fallen soldiers is to continue not just for a few days or weeks or even months. The best way we can honor these men is to work to keep this unity and support for our police for years and years to come. Let us honor these young men by walking in the power of love and unity and respect so that their lives serve as a light to future generations.

When those blue bulbs on our porches eventually burn dim, will we take the easy way out and replace them with the same old bulbs of the past, or will we take the time and effort to find another blue that we won't forget? And when life becomes so daily again, will we take the extra time and effort to keep the unity we have right now and honor these men and their families?

Emotions are raw right now. Two lights were snuffed out far too soon. We have no words, so in prayer we simply cry out to God and ask for His comfort for their families and for His protection of those patrolling our streets every day...and we keep their light burning bright.

No, I still have no words worthy of honoring these men, only a admonition to us all to keep those lights burning. When the bulbs go out with time, remember and make the effort to renew our promise to honor our men and women in blue. Don't let the lights go out....literally or figuratively.

To the families of Officer Deen and Officer Tate - we will not forget them or the love they gave to all those they met. I know you have the comfort that you will one day see them again, but in the meantime, may the God of all comfort be your peace.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (MSG)

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

John 15:11 - 13(MSG)

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cracked pots on Mother's Day...

Mother's Day is always a day filled with mixed emotions. While I am so thankful for my mother-in-law, I miss my own mom on this day. I remember all those years when becoming a mother myself seemed like an impossible dream, and I am now so thankful for my precious children and their birthmoms - but painfully aware of my failings as a mom. I'd ask for a do-over, but I'm pretty sure I'd mess that up, too. 

Then of course there is the pressure of buying a gift. How do you say thank-you to one who has given so much but also really doesn't "want" anything? That's why this year I was so excited when I saw the "perfect" gift to give my sweet mother-in-law. I was wasting time...browsing on Facebook the other day and I saw a post by a friend featuring some pottery - broken pottery.

Now the term "cracked pot" does not usually have a positive connotation. According to Webster's Dictionary, a crackpot is "a person who is crazy or very strange," but the moment I saw the picture of this cracked pottery I saw so much more. 

According to the website, Kintsukuroi is the "Japanese art of repairing precious broken pottery with seams of gold with the understanding that the piece has become even more valuable and beautiful in its brokenness." That alone speaks volumes. But when I saw the pottery, this verse immediately came to mind, 

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

When I saw the broken pieces of the pottery seamed together once again with gold, I saw the power of God shining through all those cracks. It is in our brokenness that God's mercy and grace truly shine through!

I immediately contacted the person who created the pottery to find out where I could purchase a piece in time for Mother's Day. This delightful lady informed me that she had discovered this art form after losing a precious family member and it so touched her life that she started to create it herself to share with others who had undergone a loss or a tragedy. Then she went on to say something that made each piece even more special. 

She told me that no two pieces break the same...each one breaks in a different way so when they are put back together, they are unique. How true this is in our lives. No two of us handle the trials of life the same, but that doesn't mean it is wrong. We may be broken "differently" but if we allow ourselves to be put into the Master's Hands, He will shine through the broken pieces so that all you really notice is His glory. And the more broken we are, the more He can shine through!

These verses also spoke to me in this: 

Psalm 147:3 (NIV) "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

John 12:3 (NIV) "Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."

Notice the last part of that second verse, "the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." According to the account of this in Mark, she "broke the jar". When we are broken, whatever is inside will come spilling out. I want what spills out to be God and His mercy and grace.

This Mother's Day I look forward to taking this gift to my Mother-in-law. Life has not always been easy for her, but she has allowed God to shine through the broken places. She has also loved me as her own and for that I am thankful.

I'd give one of these to my own mother, but she is living with Jesus now and seeing His full glory. Plus she had her very own "cracked pot" in me, and I'm pretty sure it is thanks to her prayers that I am able to say thank you for the broken places in my own life.

Happy Mother's Day to all the other "cracked pots" out there. May His light truly shine through the broken places in us.

Link to Kintsukuroi site that started all this: Kintsukuroi by Jean (facebook page) 

Link to song about broken pieces: Hillsong - Broken vessels (Amazing Grace)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Frankenstein-fear...(Repost from 2011)

I used to love to watch the old monster movies like Frankenstein, The Blob, and of course a multitude of Mummy movies. I would rush home every afternoon to watch "The Big Show" and an endless supply of movie monsters guaranteed to make you jump at sounds in the night. Of course, those monsters never really scared me...they moved WAY too slow to frighten me.

I always wondered about the girls in those movies. They were all young and healthy and yet they invariably would fall, turn an ankle, get their clothes caught in something or simply stand and raise their hands toward their face and scream. I never could understand why these healthy young women didn't just high-tail it out of there! After all, the monsters moved slower than my grandma - why not just run?

I didn't get it...until yesterday. I was thinking about the fact that summer is only a few weeks away and how I am determined that THIS summer we'll find ways to have some fun. Last year we did the "bummer summer" and I really didn't want to go that route again. You see, last summer was the summer when my husband was out of work. We were okay, and we knew God had promised to provide for us...but I look back now and realize that I went into "shut down" mode. The fear of the unknown absolutely paralyzed me. That's when it hit me - the monster of fear had lumbered toward me and I just stood there. Okay, so I just SAT there and did nothing. I didn't even run! (Not figuratively on that part - I literally didn't even run! My training program took a serious back burner.)

I'd always liked to believe that I was a fighter, but fear had stopped me in my tracks. I started thinking about the differences in fear and faith (other than the obvious ones) and decided to share a few of those parallels in this blog.

Fear paralyzes, but Faith propels.
Fear guards, but Faith gives.
Fear hoards, but Faith helps.
Fear trembles, but Faith transforms.
Fear withdraws, but Faith welcomes.
Fear hates, but Faith hopes.
Fear barracades, but Faith busts down walls.
Fear begs, but Faith believes.
Fear forgets all that God has done, but Faith...well, Faith faces the storm knowing that God has saved before and He can do it again.

Looking at my list, I have to wonder how many areas of my life I have allowed fear to stop me and keep me cowering in a corner.

Fear is that lumbering monster that truly has no power over us unless we give in to it and give up. For fear to succeed, all that is required is that we do nothing....just allow it to creep in and overtake us. For Faith to win, we need to put on our running shoes and get back into the race.

So now I finally get all those old movies....they weren't really about the monsters, but about how we defeat ourselves. To quote FDR from his inaugural address, "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Some may not realize this quote comes from a speech was made in 1933 - a time of economic hardship and seemingly impossible situations. It wasn't just a bummer summer - it was a bummer decade!

This year, I think I'll get off the couch and tie back on my running shoes....and leave that ugly monster in my dust. God has a race for me to run....and I won't win it by just sitting here. Care to join me?

Hebrews 12:1 - " Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"
2 Timothy 1:7 - "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day....

Sunday is Mother's Day and a perfect time to share something that happened about four years ago this week.
I don't know about other moms out there, but I know that I have made a LOT of mistakes in raising my children. Just this past week, I had one of those weird moments when I woke up and it seemed that my mind was FILLED with memories of times I had failed. So many moments that I wished I could get a "do over," so many decisions I wished I'd handled differently. I wanted so much to give my children the perfect Christian upbringing and instead....they got me.

As you can imagine, it was not a morning that filled me with great faith....until I got on facebook that is. When I sat down with my morning coffee to browse updates, there was one of my daughter's statuses that had about 17 comments. I had to see what had caused such feedback! What the topic was is not the point, it  was the way she handled the discussion that ensued on the page that made me catch my breath. As I read, I was amazed at how eloquent she presented her arguments and how level headed her responses seemed to be. I almost cried when I saw a glimpse of the young woman my precious child had become. I could almost feel God's hand on my shoulder reassuring me that no matter what mistakes I'd made, He was still in control.

Later on in the week, a mother came to me to share a discussion she had with my daughter. She shared how impressed she had been with listening to my daughter as she told those around her why it was so important to listen to your parents' rules when it came to being allowed to use the car. (She is a newly licensed driver.) She also shared why it was so important to pay attention to that "inner voice" that lets you know when something is wrong. Once again - I was floored! I knew this was NOT because of me....this was in SPITE of me!

Why share all this? Simply because on this Mother's Day I am reminded more than ever that whatever good there is, it's not because of me. I have made WAY too many mistakes to ever think that the steady walk my daughter is developing is because of me. I also remember very distinctly the day I went for a run and cried as I prayed for my child. I was at such a loss....I finally reached the point where I said, "She's Yours, God. I completely give her back to You." (I can even take you to the very spot on that run when I felt God lift the weight from my heart.)

Now, mind you, I had dedicated her when she was just a baby in my arms. We'd had the whole family come and share the moment as my pastor held her before our church and prayed....but this was different. I guess in some ways I felt a bit like Hannah turning over Samuel and knowing there was no turning back. I gave up any illusion that I could really do anything other than pray....and pray I did. Make that, pray I DO...but honestly not enough. No, I can't even take credit for prayer.

God is so good. On this Mother's Day, I am reminded that He gave me the joy of being able to watch this precious child grow into a beautiful young woman. He allows me to catch glimpses of His plan for her life. He sends comfort and correction when I completely mess up. He loves my child even more than I do....and I am amazed.

Happy Mother's Day to you from one mom who has made plenty of mistakes - and one good decision. I turned my child over to God and though it isn't always easy, I know it's the one thing I got right.

1 Samuel 1:24-28  After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.