Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mirey clay and Mississippi mud

As I was taking a run this morning, a song started running through my head. It's one you're probably familiar with cause it's used in many churches as a worship chorus..."Jesus, lover of my soul, Jesus, I will never let you go...." It was when I got to the third line that my mind took a of the advantages of being a little ADD I guess. It is the line, "You rescued me, from the miry clay" that got me thinking. Maybe it was the fact that my feet already felt like lead and I couldn't imagine having to pull them out of clay that got the wheels rolling, who knows. Anyway, remembered something that happened recently to a friend. I told him if he didn't tell this story, I would....cause there's a lesson to be learned.

It happened during a recent women's retreat my church sponsored. As timing would have it, it was the weekend we had a lot of terrible storms passing through the area. Lightning was popping everywhere, the night was filled with howling winds, and the next morning, the lake was so high that the picnic tables had floated away. Yep, it was one eventful weekend, but the excitement wasn't over yet.

You may have noticed I mentioned that this happened to a "he" and I said it was a women's retreat. One brave soul came with his wife to act as our sound man, heavy lift-it guy, etc. We were very thankful for him being there. However, as they say in the south..."you ain't from around here are ya." This young man was from an area of the country where mud isn't quite as prevalent as it is here in the deep south. We have mud that isn't just's more like glue. Given the chance, Mississippi mud will suck you in so fast you won't know what happened.

You've probably figured out where this story is going. The morning after the storm, this young man and his wife were going to drive their car from their cabin to the main meeting area. No problem, he'd driven in and out from there a couple of times already. Only this time, he got stuck. Not just a little stuck. I've never seen a car that buried in the mud. His car was resting on its axle! He was STUCK!!!

I think if he had realized how bad things could get, he'd have stopped and gotten help right away, but like most people he thought he'd just keep trying and eventually he'd drive out of that mud...but Mississippi mud is a little like doesn't want to let go. He just dug himself in deeper.

To his credit, he kept such a great attitude in all of this. Never once did I see him beat himself up, blow up, lose his cool....nothing. Perhaps he did it in private, but none of us saw it. He just took it in stride, finished out the retreat, and then went back to trying to get his car unstuck.

Eventually the camp owners came to help. They had a big pickup truck and tried to pull him out. No luck. They tried to dig him about a mess. I think they even broke a shovel in the process. Still stuck. It was time for some expert help, so a tow truck was called.

You're not going to believe this...the tow truck got stuck. Yep, plus the cable broke when the driver tried to get himself unstuck. This guy's reaction was MUCH different than my friends had been. He somewhat held his temper, but you could tell he was fuming with himself and the situation. So now the first tow truck had to call in his boss who brought a second tow truck. This one was massive and could have pulled out an eighteen wheeler...all for my friends little compact car...and the other tow truck.

Eventually they all got unstuck and drove merrily on their way....complete with a tree limb they pulled out from under the car and the mud that stayed on there for a week. This was definitely an adventure that got me to thinking. How many times do we find ourselves "stuck" in something we thought we could handle? Maybe it's sin; maybe it's venturing into an area we aren't yet equipped to handle. Whatever it is, the scenario is much the same. At first we try to get ourselves out....that's fine, but at some point we have to realize we are stuck. We need to call for help. If we call soon enough, perhaps all it will take is a friend to help pull us out. Don't let pride keep you from asking, because if you wait too long, it may take more to pull you out. Then, the one who tries to help can actually get stuck with you if they aren't prepared. You get the picture.

There's an even greater lesson that I saw and it was in this young man's face. At no point did he seem alarmed or dismayed. He knew he'd be okay....I think that's the countenance that comes from someone who knows that no matter what life throws at them, God is in control. He will rescue from the miry clay and set your feet upon a rock....even if you're stuck in the clay because of a wrong decision you made. God loves you too much to ever let go. I guess God is the really big tow truck...the one that can really rescue you from what is trying to suck you under.

So with apologies to Hillsong for slightly changing the words, because I trust God's grip far more than I trust my own....."Jesus, lover of my soul....Jesus, You will never let me go. You rescued me, from the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock and now I know. I love you, I need you. Though my world may fall You'll never let me go....." Now that's good news.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The sky is falling; the sky is falling!

Lately, I've been noticing a trend. Many of my friends, especially the male ones, seem to be feeling the pain of what is going on around them. During the conversation, you will hear a lot about what is wrong in the world today. I'm not sure if they feel it more acutely because of their gender, or if they simply have spent more time listening to the negative voices that keep telling us "the sky is falling." Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that these are the people who spend a lot of time listening to the "news".

Don't get me wrong. I know the news is filled with horrible stuff...wars and rumors of wars, scandals that would make the people of Sodom and Gomorrah blush, news of economic downturns that make the Great Depression look like a slight blip in history...maybe that's the problem. These guys are listening to the news.

I'm not abdicating being blind to what is going on in the world today. I believe we need to know what is going on and have our hearts broken for those who suffer around us. We are to rail against injustice for the oppressed and speak out boldly about those things that go against God's Word. Yet somehow in all of this we also called to be a voice of hope. That's hard to do if you fill your mind and thoughts with the bad news of the day.

Whether it comes by radio, television or circumstances...that bad news wants to steal your hope and your joy. It wants to get you to take your eyes off the author and finisher of our faith and focus instead on what your eyes see. But your eyes can deceive you. I recently saw a video clip of a magician who somehow made it look as if his head fell off into his hands when he sneezed. Of course, it caused the unsuspecting to scream in horror at what appeared to be happening. Reality and appearance were two very different things.

I don't like a lot of what I see happening around me today, but the things I see are not the whole story. We fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places...and I know who wins that war. My Father wins.

So yes, I know things seem bad. As Paul Harvey once said, "In times like these, it helps to remember there have always been times like these." John 14:27 (Amplified version) puts it this way: "Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]" Follow that with John 10:10: "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)."

The sky isn't falling...but continue to watch for one day it will split and He will return. Until that time, hold on to His promises: John 16:33 (Amplified) "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

who I am today....

I could hear the voice of a very frustrated child yelling at his big brother. Stupid, stupid, stupid! When the child appeared around the corner, I asked, "Did I just hear the 's' word coming from you?"

"Yeah, but it was their fault," came the reply. This little guy was the youngest of 4 boys and of course, in his eyes, they were the reason for his problems. He wanted to tell me all the terrible things they had done, none of which sounded all that bad...but in the mind of an eight year old, they were awful! I flashed back to my own experience as the "baby" of the family and assured him that his brothers were actually giving him a great gift! They were giving him the gift of being able to handle whatever came his way. No matter what the world tried to trick him into, his brothers had already tried that and he wouldn't fall for that trick again.

I could tell that he was thinking...I'd like to believe about what I had said, but I'm not that naive. Still, our conversation caused me to reminisce on my own childhood and how my sister had prepared me for life. It began when I was brought home from the hospital and my sister became convinced I was her new least that is how the story goes. What I remember is years of teasing and tricks that I never seemed to win. She'd torment me with taunts of "Donna loves Greg"....he by the way was the little boy who made me eat grass in Vacation Bible School. She short-sheeted my bed, filled it with crackers, played mind games...yep, pretty standard sister stuff. Through it all, I think I always knew she loved me....she never said it, but I knew if I ever really needed her, she'd be there. If you've ever seen the movie "Wild America", the boys in that movie remind me a little of life with my sister....although not quite as extreme...we were girls after all....and we never went on such a great adventure and I never used her toothbrush to clean the toilet. But that's another topic completely.

Come to think of it, pretty much all the things that have happened to me in my life have helped prepare me to become who I am. My life with my sister, being teased in school, having to stand up to the bully, making HUGE mistakes, and dealing with all the things that come my way have helped me be able to deal with life...."Living In a Fallen Environment". The Bible says it this way...."And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

We don't have to make excuses or blame our past. What we have to do is look for the jewel that lies within these experiences...see how they have made us stronger, and how God has used each thing to draw us closer to Him. I often say "that which does not kill me only makes me stronger." Not sure how theologically sound that is, but it works pretty well for me.

I'm thankful for my sister....she helped make me who I am today. I'm learning to be thankful for some of the far more unpleasant things that life has tossed my way as well. Everyone of them has become a thread in the tapestry of my life. I may not see the whole picture, but as I get older that picture is definitely become clearer and easier to see.

It's not the pleasant things that have caused me to grow; it's been those things that have sometimes been like a big sister aggravating me, and it has been those things in life that have been so unfair. Each one has become a part of my testimony...a part of my joy. My life is filled with laughter, perhaps because it was first filled with tears.

God is painting a beautiful picture in your life as well....sometimes it just takes backing up a bit so you can see. Oh, and by the way....if you have a brother or sister...don't forget to say thank you.....they helped make you the person you are today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prayer by Sir Francis Drake

The following is a prayer by the explorer Sir Francis Drake. It "disturbed" me...which I'm seeing can be a good thing, for sometimes we need to be "disturbed" in order to get us to reach farther than our comfort zone.

Here's the prayer: "Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love."

May your day be filled with Godly "disturbances".

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

like a song stuck in my head

For some odd reason, the song "Eye of the Tiger" has been stuck in my head all night long. I hate it when that happens. It's not that I have anything against that song, but no matter what I start doing, that song is playing like my own personal background music. No one else can hear it, but trust me, it's there. Sometimes I even find myself singing the song outloud, subjecting others to my lack of talent and possibly infecting them with the "song that never ends."

That got me to thinking....what other "background" music am I playing in my life? For the past couple of days, I've had something that is troubling me. Nothing major, but just like that annoying song, I find myself rehearsing it over and over no matter what else is going on. My thoughts may seem to be on whatever is at hand, but just like the songs that get stuck in your head, it's simply waiting for me to start over again on an endless chorus of worry. And just like with the musical version, sometimes I find myself "singing" the song, unaware that I'm actually rehearsing worries out loud...possibly causing others to now be infected by this nagging tune.

So, how does one get rid of those annoying songs? Sometimes time takes care of it. More often I find I have to consciously listen to something else and get another "song" to take its place. I may have to listen more than once to erase the unwanted chorus, but eventually it does go away...or at least is tuned out by more welcome thoughts. I'm thinking the same principal holds true for those things that worry you. Focusing on them will only make them grow stronger like an unwelcome theme song for your days. To make those worrisome thoughts fade away, you have to replace them with something else, something that is stronger. You need a new song.

I remember a time when I was facing a really difficult situation with someone and didn't know what to do. As I tucked my daughter into bed that night, a familiar song from one of her children's tapes came to mind. It was scripture set to music. The message was simple; "trust in the Lord with all you heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) Instead of the "worry song" I had been playing, I started singing this song and soon that annoying worry chorus was so faint I couldn't really hear it anymore. It's funny, I've remembered that night and that song many times over the years, and it never fails to bring a sense of peace.

I don't know what your "Eye of the Tiger" or annoying jingle may be today, but I'm thinking the Proverbs 3 song might make for a better soundtrack. Give it a try. If you can find a friend to sing along, even better! As for me, I think I'll use it to "sing" myself to sleep.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I didn't mean to kill them....

My poor plants...they never really had a chance. I am definitely not my mother. She could grow the most beautiful plants in some of the most unusual places. I remember that she was happiest when she was up to her elbows in dirt and surrounded by her flowers. But as I said, I am not my mother.

I was so excited at the thought of creating my own little herb garden in my window sill. The thought of fresh peppermint and spicy peppers filled my dreams. Things began promisingly enough. The little seeds quickly sprouted into tender young shoots in their little miniture green house. They pushed at the top of the plastic and I knew it was time to move them to a slightly larger pot...or so I thought.

I transplanted my seedlings to a larger pot and placed them lovingly back into my windowsill. I even misted them gently with water. Yes, these would be my crowning achievement. Finally, I would grow something! Then my son closed the shutters, and the trouble began.

I didn't think much of it at first. My son often closes the kitchen shutters, although I really don't know why. I love the sunlight streaming in....he prefers things a bit cooler and darker. At any rate, the shutters were closed and my plants completely left my thoughts. It was truly a case of out of sight, out of mind. When I finally thought to open the shutters a few days later, my poor little seedlings were nothing but little lifeless straws draped over the sides of their new pots. I had killed again.

It is there that the random thoughts kicked in...along with a lot of disappointment. You see, those plants were not where I could easily see them each day, and since I truly had not developed the habit of caring for them, I quickly forgot their existence. I'm sure I could have been reminded, but on my own I never gave them even a passing glance. My harvest died from neglect.

God's Word can be that way, too. I guess that's why God told us in Deut. 11, (Message translation) 18-21 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you'll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.

God knows I'm not the only one who is forgetful. That's why He told us to keep His Word ever before us and let it get deep inside us. For when we allow His Word to be "out of sight", it can soon become "out of mind" as well. It takes practice and spending time daily letting the words become a part of who we are. If we are able to do this, then even in times of drought, there will be a wellspring from within to sustain us.

I wish I had paid more attention to my mother when she was planting. If I had, I might be sipping mint tea right now instead of the plain variety. I wonder what would happen if we all spent time sharing the stories of how God has planted His Word in our lives with our children. The world might be a very different place.

I may keep at least one of those pitiful dead plants around for a while just as a reminder. Each time I see it, I will be reminded how important it is to keep God's Word ever before me and constantly shared with those I love. This harvest is one that is too important to neglect....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow.....

We've all heard the old saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". This week, I think I'm experiencing just a little of that - and I don't like it.

For some reason, the "Random Thoughts" haven't been coming as easily. I had gotten used to those wonderful feelings of hearing from God and making the connection and sharing!
I'm not saying that I've heard nothing this week. There have been lots of "God moments" that assure me that I am not walking alone, but those moments where I know that I'm seeing a peek of the connection between heaven and earth...well, those haven't been there. And I miss them. They have become like the private joke or smile shared between a husband and wife or two best friends. You've seen them. Those moments of intimacy that can only come from time shared together. I see those moments between my husband and daughter. Those shared jokes that only require a side-ways glance to send them both into peals of laughter. Those quick remarks that only make sense to the two of them. Those are the mark of time spent together and love. Those moments show even more than love...they show "like". They truly "like" each other. That's what I'm missing.

Usually, separation comes when we get too busy....we put each other off until later. We don't mean harm, we just have something that demands our attention right then. Every once in a while having a day like this won't take toll on a friendship, but when it happens every day...well, that's when the jokes start to fade. The glances don't come as often. The love is still there, but the "like" isn't quite as strong as before....and you start to miss them.
If we go too long without reconnecting, soon the "missing you" starts to fade and we move farther and farther apart. I have friends that I truly love and yet I realize I have allowed the daily struggles to push me to the point where we no longer have those shared "moments" that only we understand. I don't want to live my life that way with friends, and I certainly don't want to live my life that way with my Father. Absence has not only made this heart grow fonder, it has caused me to realize just how much I need those daily "smiles" from God...and from His children.

We all get the same amount of time each day, and some of it is already "spent" for us with things like our jobs, but so much more time each day is OURS to decide where it will be spent. I wonder just how much of this valuable resource I have thrown away? I'd never knowingly throw hundred dollar bills into the trash, but I toss my hours into a trash bin with mindless activities that have no real relation to anything.

To my friends, my family, and mostly to God....I miss you. I'm sorry for the missed opportunities to share with you. I'm taking time to remember all the things I love about you and how wonderful you are. Absence has done enough....I want no more. I'm ready for time spent with you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's not too late to turn this car around....

This past weekend, my family and I decided to go out and celebrate Mother's Day on Saturday night so that we could beat the crowds on Sunday. We all piled into the car and I anticipated a wonderful meal prepared by someone else...and cleaned up by someone else. That's when the bickering started. Most mother's can identify. "Mom, he's touching me." "I wasn't doing nothing!" Back and forth, back and forth with me asking them to please stop. Then something inside me made me think, enough is enough. If I don't put my foot down now, this will never end. I looked at my husband and told him, "It's not to late to turn around. Let's go home." Yes, we turned around and drove home with both kids fussing and fuming. "Mom, we were stopping. We didn't mean it." On and on they went...all the way home. We got home and ate frozen pizza...and the funniest thing happened. Peace came back into the house.

This isn't the first time my kids have pushed me to the point when I had to take a stand...obviously I don't do it nearly enough or we wouldn't have had to turn the car around that night. But every time I "draw the line", peace comes back into our home....not just in the circumstances around us, but inside us as well. That's because correction brings peace.

Right now, I'm pretty sure anyone under 18 reading this would shout out, "No it doesn't!" No one seems to like to be corrected, but maybe that's because we don't understand true correction. I didn't turn that car around because I wanted to go home....I did it because I saw a dangerous pattern emerging that needed to end before it became a habit. We went home because I love my kids.

I also know that correction brings peace because of personal happened this week as a matter of fact. I was in a pretty bad funk. I was mad at my students, frustrated with those that didn't seem to care and a bureaucracy that required me to test and be held accountable for the results from kids who didn't seem to care. I fussed and fumed for a whole day...and then God sent correction. First it was from my "Facebook" friends who sent encouraging words..."this is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!" Another friend reminded me to treasure every day, I do not know how many I have been entrusted with. Then, I heard it. That still small voice inside that said "Don't despise the harvest I have given you." Okay, there aren't words to explain how it felt hearing that. I realized I was angry and frustrated with the very harvest God had given me...these children and my career - teaching. Who am I to decide that the field God has entrusted to me isn't good enough? Or that it is somehow unfair. God pretty much knows what He's doing! I started praying, Lord give me eyes to see them as you do....and peace followed. Real peace. When I listened to His correction, first through His servants, and then from Him, peace followed. I wonder how many people understand that.

At school, I have students who HATE correction. If I call their name the first response is "I wattin doin nothin!" What they don't seem to understand is that if they would simply obey, peace will follow. I have other students that all it takes is a look and they know to stop what they are doing. Funny thing is, the students who respond quickly to correction also get looks of encouragement from me...a wink and a nod, a smile that says well done. These are given because the child first learned to obey.

I once told a student that his mom and I were a brick wall, but we weren't there to keep him from having fun. We were there for his protection. He could keep running into the wall, but the wall wasn't going anywhere. It was built by love.

I have a saying that hangs in my classroom and follows me pretty much every where I go. "No one can go back and change the beginning, but anyone can begin today and create a brand new ending." In other words, it's not too late to turn the car around. I'm sure I'll have many more opportunities to experience God's loving correction in my life....I hope you will too. For with that correction, comes peace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Platinum blond on Mother's Day????

Everyone wants to look their best on their special day...since today is Mother's Day, I decided yesterday that I would color my hair and get rid of some of the gray. Now I color my hair all the time, truly have no idea what the original color was since much of it is going gray, but this time it would have proved to be an adventure I did not wish to have.

To begin with, I went to the local "super" store which is being remodeled...can I just tell you how much I hate that process? Now I can't find anything I'm looking for! Well, I did finally find the hair color section and instead of grabbing my usual brand, I decided to try something different. One advertised it got rid of gray (which is really what I'm after) and after carefully choosing the shade of brown I wanted, I made my purchase.

Late last night, I began the process of coloring my hair. I read all the instructions and prepped my hair for its new glorious shade of brown....but something inside me had a "check". You know that feeling when something just isn't sitting right, but you aren't quite sure what it is. Some people call "it" intuition; I think that is often the voice of the Holy Spirit, but I digress. Anyway, I got that little nudge inside that stopped me. I looked at the bottle in my hand and decided I needed to look at ALL the ingredients in my box one last time. That's when I spotted it. The numbers on my "color tube" and the box did not match. If I had followed through without going back to look at all those ingredients, I would have been sporting platinum blond hair at church today. Not that blond isn't a good color for some, but trust me when I say it is NOT the color for me.

I put all the ingredients back into the box to return to the store today, and so began today's Random Thought.

Yesterday, I was talking to a good friend about a conversation we'd had about my blog, "I'm not sure it's what I thought it was...." We were both so excited because another discussion just confirmed that what we'd been thinking was the direction we felt God wanted us to go. Now, anytime you realize that you are being directed by God it's exciting, but I got to thinking about how many people are wanting to "hear from God" and yet don't know how. I'm not sure I have all the answers....make that I'm sure I DON'T have all the answers, but I have a couple of ideas that might help.

We begin hearing from God about the small things, not that He won't tell you to give up everything and move to a foreign country, but more often He gives you that little check in your spirit like the one I had last night that gets your attention. Now some may call that common sense, but after many years I've about decided that common sense just isn't that common any more....maybe because people have stopped listening for God's voice. That's also probably why many teenagers seem to have no "common sense"...they haven't had as many years to learn how to recognize that gentle nudge from God. It's that nudge, that little "wait a minute" inside you, that gets your attention. God doesn't always send some great booming voice, more often it's that still quiet voice inside that says "wait" or "go now". I guess one of the problems might be we're so busy and surrounded by so much other "noise" that we can't hear the quiet one.

I know some people are afraid that they'll "miss it" when they try to hear from God. A wise person once told me, "God not only knows the last thing He said to you, He knows the last thing you understood." As a parent, I know when I need to repeat myself because they didn't hear or understand me. My heavenly Father is a MUCH better parent than I am, why would I think He would do any less?

My husband has another quote that he uses: "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience often comes from bad judgement." Those times when we feel God's prompting in an area and don't obey can be what helps us listen more closely the next time. It is a learning process. We learn to obey in the small areas so that when the time comes to walk in faith in the greater areas, we're better able to understand when it's God, and when it's just "us".

Surrounding yourself with godly friends is a HUGE help. I have a few people that I can go to and say "this is what I feel God is saying" and they often say they have been thinking the same thing themselves! It's exciting to hear from God, but to be able to share that excitement is so much FUN! The times I've felt like I needed to take a big step that required faith, it seems like God had already paved the way with my friends and they were walking with me! Having those people in your life who have walked with God for many years can make all the difference in the world. They understand those little nudges and can help you understand them too.

It all comes back to that still small voice; those little inner "nudges" that direct your steps. Yes, sometimes God requires us to take a great step of faith, and for those times He provides many different confirmations that it is indeed His voice that you've heard. But for me, it's the day to day walking with Him that I treasure so much...hearing His prompting in the little things as I take tiny steps toward doing His will. Today my prayer for you is that you will hear God's voice as he whispers, "this is the way...walk in it"(Isaiah 30:21). As for me, I think I'll treasure my grey hairs on Mother's Day. They represent years of learning to hear His voice....but I still plan to color them later today.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Watch out for falling frogs.....

Today as I went for my run...okay, so it turned into more of a walk, but that's not the I was out, I was nearly hit by today's Random Thought.

It is truly a beautiful day and I was just enjoying being outside. My run had turned into a walk, and my mind was wandering who knows where. That's when it happened. As I passed underneath a tree, I heard a huge SPLAT! I whipped around to see what at first appeared to be a huge bird dropping, but as my eyes adjusted to what was in front of me, I realized it was some sort of frog. I've never seen one quite like this...he was the color and pattern of grey tree bark. At first I thought he must be dead, but he started to hop toward the edge of the road in panic...I guess I would have too if I had just fallen from a great height onto my stomach! I stopped long enough to make sure he was all right (not really sure what I would have done if he wasn't....I don't really know froggie CPR), and once he made his way into the leaves, I continued on with my walk.

Things like this always make me stop and wonder if there is a random thought in what just happened. Oh, admit it...if you were nearly hit by a falling frog out of the middle of nowhere, wouldn't you stop and ask yourself if someone was trying to get your attention? So I started to think about that frog. He must have been clinging to a branch above my head for who knows how long, trying desperately to regain his balance, and the next thing he knew he lost his grip and was falling...and hitting the ground HARD. I'd have never noticed him if he hadn't almost hit me...but God saw his every move. Then I got to wondering, how many other things have I missed? I pretty much go through my day in a whirl...are there people around me who are struggling and I don't even notice?

My walk started to take on a different feel now. As I passed the houses, I wondered who lived in them. Were they going through something that made them feel like they were barely hanging on and at any moment they would fall....and that no one was noticing.

Years ago, it was popular to do something called a "prayer walk", especially at schools. The idea was to simply pray for those in an area and whatever they might be facing. So today, I guess I started a "prayer walk" for my neighborhood. As I passed homes I would pray for those inside. If there was a tricycle in the yard, I prayed for wisdom for the parents of the child and for strength in their marriage. If there was a ribbon announcing a new birth, I prayed for that new mom and the sleepless nights she might be having. When I passed a home with signs of an older person living there, I prayed for their health, peace, and for them to have the ability to deal with all that aging brings. I prayed that they have friends.....lots of friends.

I became aware of little things that might give me a clue as to how to pray. Tomato plants? I prayed for a harvest so that the person growing them might not only have enough for themselves, but enough to share with others. For sale sign in the yard? I could pray for not only the sale of the home, but for those who would buy it. I could pray that they would be able to find the finances and that they would become a wonderful part of our neighborhood. Lots of cars? Probably college students - so I prayed for them to have professors who were unafraid to live a life of conviction and speak the Truth into their lives. I prayed for those students to have the courage to take a stand and live a life of purity in every area of their walk. The list goes on and on....I just had to wake up and take notice.

God has called us to pray....not just for ourselves, but for others. I wonder how our world might change if we all did this. As for me, God doesn't have to hit me with a falling frog to get my attention....well, maybe He did...but I don't think I'll ever see my run/walks the same again. Just know that for now, somebody is praying for you....and watch out for those falling frogs.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Family name...

Today is the National Day of Prayer and my thoughts keep going to the verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14...especially the "my name" part. God said if His people, called by His name, humble themselves and seek His face He will hear from heaven and heal our land. It's that 'my name' part that keeps ringing in my head. You see, for me growing up, my family name was a big deal. Not that we were rich or anything, or that our name was known as a great power, but believe me, in my little area of the world my family name was pretty special.

I was a pretty good kid and I learned to work hard, but to be honest it was probably my daddy's name that opened doors for me. It wasn't that I had done anything was my dad who had paved the way. He had already paid the price with his life, and I was reaping the benefits. While Daddy didn't always give me my wants, he somehow made a way to provide for all my needs. All I had to do was ask.
Mind you, I knew better than to ask if I was being disobedient, but I also knew that if I came to him as my father...that was all I needed to do. To be honest, I didn't want to disobey. Oh, I may have done some pretty stupid things sometimes, but I remember I never wanted to disappoint Daddy...I continually looked toward his face looking for that smile that told me he was proud of me. That laugh that let me know he was happy with me. That approving nod that simply meant, "well done."

As wonderful as I thought my daddy was, I know we are promised by our heavenly father a much greater promise than my dad could ever give. God has promised if that if those of us who have the "family name" will humble ourselves and seek His face, He will hear us and heal our land. Our land really could use some healing right now. Are we willing to go home to Daddy and ask Him what we should do? Are we willing to lay down our pride and admit we can't do it on our own? Do we desire to see our Father's face and see His smile, His laugh, His approving nod? Do I desire that more than anything else?
May 7, 2009, can be just the beginning of seeking His face. For some, this will be just another day, but for those who call Him Father, this can be the first day of what becomes a National Lifetime of Prayer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why do I lie to myself?

You know, you'd think by now I'd know myself pretty well. After all, I've known me for 50 years! I know my favorite foods, my favorite tv shows, even my favorite thing to do on a rainy day, (take a nap of course.) However, I still manage to lie to myself on a regular basis and actually believe me when I do!

I realized this about myself when I cleaned out the refrigerator this afternoon. I pulled out containers of things that vaguely resembled food and cartons of cottage cheese, (which I used to wonder how you'd know when cottage cheese "went bad" I know). As I reached farther back into the recesses of my fridge and reminisced on meals gone past, I realized I'd lied to myself again. How could I have been so foolish! You'd think I'd know by now that when I tell myself I'll save these leftovers and use them for lunches or as a fill-in for another meal, I'm telling a bald-faced lie. Those poor left overs are going to get pushed back until they can't be seen. When I finally do decide to check "what have we got to eat", they will have decided to give up their lives as food and join the forces of fuzzy, furry creatures everywhere! It's not pretty when you're confronted with a lie.

Actually, to be kind to myself, I don't mean to lie. I guess I just can't help myself...but at least I'm not alone. Paul said in Romans 7: 14 - 25 (Message translation) 14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.
17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

That just about says it all. I obviously need help. Thank heavens God sent Jesus for a rebel like me. Now it's time to go and clean out the pantry and those sweet potatoes that are starting to sprout.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I was shocked....

I was completely shocked...this had never happened before.

It had been a rough day, as most days are toward the end of the school year, but today was one for the books....students are tired and so am I. Then after school, I rushed my daughter to tryouts, went to pick up my son at a friend's house, and then rushed home to take care of a couple of things before dashing off to give blood. All in all, it was a typical day for just about any mom in America today.
I arrived at the blood services location and was told I'd have to wait. This wasn't a problem, but I was looking forward to going home. When my turn finally arrived, the nurse was quite excited that my blood type was B positive, (and I thought that was just my personality.) She began discussing with me the possibility of giving platelets since there was such a need for them and I had the right blood type and good veins, etc, etc, etc. Even my weight was a plus...she was happy to see that I weighed...wait, I'm not telling that. Still she was happy about my weight which was more than I could say. Then came the finger prick....I bled on demand as always. She dropped the red dot into the mixture and ...... nothing. It just floated. That has NEVER happened to me before! EVER!!! She took another drop and did some sort of spin...still no luck. I couldn't give. She asked if I had been dieting, which I am supposed to be doing but am not. Then she got personal and asked about caffeine....okay, did I mention it's the end of the school year? I am practically inhaling coffee and chocolate just to keep going! That was probably the problem she assured me. She encouraged me to take some vitamins and cut back on the caffeine (like that's going to happen) and come back in a couple of days. I walked out of the office completely stupefied.
By now you comes the random thought. It occurred to me as I drove home that I hadn't been taking very good care of myself lately...I was putting off what I knew needed to be done until the urgency of the state tests had passed. After all, summer is just around the corner and I can get my life back in order then...can't I? But that nagging feeling came up again. This is just like yesterday when I got into a rush and picked up two left shoes and wound up causing myself more problems. I'm always rushing and not doing what I need to do for me....and then when the time came to help someone else, I couldn't. Someone will be desperately needing those platelets, and because of my careless lifestyle I can't help.

Spiritually, I'm not much better. I grab a verse here, a few minutes of prayer there....enough for my own daily needs. However, if I should run into something that requires a little bit more, I'm not sure I'll have what it takes to get through. Heaven forbid someone else should need me to help them take a stand in prayer. I've got just enough gas to get by. While I've been telling myself I was doing fine and I'd "catch up" this summer, I know that God wants something more. I think He wants that something more not just so I can help others, I think He wants it for me.

Our church has called a month of fasting and prayer and each time I pray about it, I find myself drawn not to fasting but to time spent in His Word. I'm not saying I won't give up a few meals, and maybe even the caffeine, (those around me might want to take cover), but more than that I think God is calling me to a time of filling. I'm low, even if I don't feel like it, and while I'm eager to give to others, my reserves say I need to fill up myself first.

I'm kind of reminded of the 10 foolish virgins who forgot to take enough oil for their lamps. When the bridegroom tarried, they just didn't have enough. I don't like to admit that I could be considered one of those foolish ones.

The good news is, I'm not that low. A couple of days of eating right, vitamins, and a bit less stress and my little red "blob of blood" will probably sink right to the bottom. I'm glad I discovered this now, before it became serious. Same with my spiritual walk....I'm glad I realized I'm a bit low, before it started to effect my walk.

How about you? How are you doing, both physically and spiritually? Time to take inventory and replenish your supplies. Prepare....for you never know when you might need it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

two left shoes

Tonight I went to one of my favorite activities...crossfit at my church. No, this isn't a Bible study, but a type of circuit training. I was really excited about tonight's workout because I already had a blog idea in my head. You see, in crossfit, you do a variety of exercises over and over so that no one muscle group gets worn out. There is no way I could ever imagine doing 75 pushups, 75 situps, and more, but by doing 5 at a time and then moving quickly on to the next exercise, I find I can do more. Yes, I just knew what tonight's blog would be about: how when we do a little each day, it adds up and can amount to great things in the Kingdom of God. At least, that's what this blog was supposed to be about.....

I gathered up my exercise clothes and shoes to take with me to work today. This was one afternoon I was determined to not be in a rush to get to my workout. After school, I worked a bit longer and then drove directly to the church. I was actually the first one there! This was going to be great. I ran into the bathroom to change clothes and hurried on into the workout area....I figured I'd put on my shoes in there. I put on my socks and then one shoe, but as I picked up the other shoe it felt something wasn't quite right. Of course, I had not only brought two different shoes, I had brought two LEFT shoes. Now, I'm not the most coordinated person you'll ever meet, but even I can't manage with two left shoes on my feet.

I figured the answer was simple. I would just workout in my socks. That didn't work too well because my feet kept slipping. No problem...I'd just work out in my bare feet.

Everything seemed fine for a while, then about 2/3 of the way through I noticed my big toe hurt a bit. I tried to push through, but it started to sting. I looked to discover I had not only created a blister on my had burst. This was going to be a problem.

I managed to modify the rest of my workout, but throughout I felt the discomfort of being unprepared. I did not have proper footwear and now I was paying the price....and I hadn't even been on rough ground! I was running around on soft carpet!

You know, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6 that we are to put on the WHOLE armor of God...and not surprisingly that includes footwear. Specifically, we are to put on shoes that are described as "the preparation of the gospel of peace." I don't know about you, but all the other parts of the armor of God were easy for me to understand, but this one kind of confused me. I knew soldiers had special footwear that allowed them to move over rocky terrain and fight in the battle, but what in the world is "preparation of the gospel of peace"?

After tonight's little mishap, I think I may have an idea. As Christians, we must be able to run at any moment to share the good news of Jesus Christ. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season,” Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim 4:2). We should be ready always to share the gospel...something that's difficult to do if you've foolishly allowed yourself to be wounded because you weren't prepared. We really can't afford to be careless and allow the rush of the world to keep us from paying attention to what God has told us to do. We must prepare by "putting on the whole armor of God" each day, for we don't know when we might be required to stand and "fight" or "run" and share the good news....and that's tough to do when you have no shoes.

So, from my two left shoes and me....put on your armor today....someone may need you to be ready to run.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is a test...this is only a test.

You can barely step onto the campus of any school right now without hearing that dreaded term..."testing." We are in the midst of state tests and it is to say the least a stressful time for everyone involved. Teachers are doing everything they can to help students do well on these tests. Students, who up till now have been oblivious to learning, are suddenly taking notice...sometimes even asking questions! It's amazing! The results of these tests determine how schools are ranked, how students are ranked, even how an area is viewed as far as being a place where people will come to create businesses, settle down, and live their lives. All based on a test. A little far fetched, isn't it.

How many times in life are we judged by "tests"? Quite often when you stop to think about it. We have tests of character, tests of faith, tests of judgement, tests of what's with all these "tests"?

When students do well on their state tests, they can breathe a sigh of relief...for about a week, then it's time to learn NEW things. When we pass our tests in life, we get just about as much of a reprieve. We know that each day brings new tests that we will have to pass. There is, however, some good news. God has promised in His Word:" The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.(Lamentations 3:22 - 23)

Yes, whether we like it or not, those tests are important....because each one becomes a part of our "TESTimony". They help reveal what we know both to ourselves and to the world.

That's why this is a is only a test...and somehow we will come through victorious in Him so in the event of an ACTUAL emergency, we'll know just where to turn.

What's the hurry?

Yesterday I was talking to my niece and she, like many others, is seeking for her purpose...looking for that certain something that God created her to do. I'm so glad that she has such a heart after God, and in some ways she reminds me of myself at her age: desperate to do God's will yet not sure exactly what that means.

While I am all for discovering your gifts and talents, I'm not sure that even that will help you discover your purpose in Christ, that one "thing" you were created to do....I'm not sure anything but time can do that. I'm not even sure there's is just one "thing".

Think about it; how many people have truly found their call in life before the age of 30? Even great athletes who win in the Olympic games have a lot of life left before they reach heaven....would they say their "purpose" in Christ was to win those games? True, it may have been a part of the plan, but it's not their purpose. When they stand before the Father in heaven, they won't be able to throw those gold medals at His feet. I'm pretty sure gold doesn't translate to heaven...after all, its used for paving the streets there so it must be pretty common. So, what is our purpose?

I remember a missionary who came and spoke once to our congregation. She told of when she had been crying to God asking when would it be her turn....for at the time her days were filled with changing diapers, wiping noses, creating a home. I don't remember what she said God's answer was, but I do remember a lot about her life. She led many to the Lord, as did her children. She built mission stations and spoke all around the world. None of it even began, as far as the world could see, until she was well past her prime. I believe she lived her days in God's purpose for her life.

Moses was 40 when he made his first big mistake...pretty much wrecked God's plan for his life according to his way of thinking. He went to being a shepherd...definitely NOT what he thought God had planned, I'm sure. Then, after about 40 more years, God spoke to him and Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage. He continued to lead (and sometimes make mistakes), for 40 more years. Now even those who aren't very good at math can do those numbers....40 years old and still searching, 80 years old he begins his purpose, then for the next 40 years he walks in that purpose.

I can almost hear people shouting at the screen, "But I'm not Moses! I don't plan on living to be 120 years old!!" To be honest, neither do I. In the years we waited to have children, people would remind me of Sarah who gave birth to Isaac when she was response was always, "I have no desire to be 90 years old and pregnant." However, both these examples serve as reminders....God isn't running out of time. He knows the plans He has for you, plans for hope and a future, and if He should decide to keep you alive till you're 120, He can do it. He can also renew your strength like that of the eagle. You will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint...if you WAIT upon the Lord.

Right now, for my niece, the purpose of God is clear: love her children, love her husband, and most of all, love God. In a few years, God may move her into doing other things, but none are more important than these....they're just different for a different stage of her life, and ALL are a part of God's purpose for her life. So what's the point? God is not in a hurry. He's not running out of time. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Finding your purpose in God is about living every day seeking His face and what He has for you that day....the rest will fall into place.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Today's post is taken from something I heard a friend share at his son's graduation last night. I watched as he gave the "charge" to his son and friends, and really to all of us in the room, to really L.I.V.E.

L.I.V.E. stands for Loving, Innovation, Values, and Encouragement.

Loving - In life it's quite easy to love those closest to us...or is it? In a Wednesday night service recently we compared what the world calls love with what God calls love. The God love isn't all that easy because it's not based completely on feelings. Godly love is truly a choice. It isn't a 50/50 proposition...true love doesn't even require that the other person love back. Godly love isn't dependent upon feelings. As we travel through life, we will find that the world is filled with people that can be pretty difficult to love....sometimes we can even find those people in our own families! We may not always LIKE those around us, but if we can see them with the eyes of Christ, we can work toward learning to LOVE them.

Innovation - This is really thinking outside the box. Today's world can sometimes look pretty scary, but some of the greatest innovations have been born not in times of plenty, but in times of need. What is your gift? Allow God to use that gift; it will make a place for us before great men. (Prov. 18:16) Don't be afraid to use those innovative ideas and create. Ever hear of post-it notes? Did you know that they were born not out of something that worked, but something that didn't? Spencer Silver was working for 3M in the 70's trying to invent a super strong adhesive...instead, he created a super weak one. He didn't discard it, and 10 years later a fellow 3M scientist named Arthur Fry remembered Silver's invention. Fry was singing in the church choir and having trouble keeping his markers in place. He remembered Silver's super weak adhesive and used it. Ten years after Silver's "failure", 3M began marketing post-it notes. Think outside the box!

Values - What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? The values we learned as a small child should go with us throughout our lives. They are timeless and true. There is a saying that says "Everything I needed to learn, I learned in kindergarten" and that is still true today. More importantly, everything I need is available to me in the timeless Word of God that I began learning even before kindergarten. Don't forget what is important in's not the stuff you accumulate, it's the people you love along the way.

Encouragement - Everyone needs encouraging and it is a gift anyone can give. The funny thing is, when given, this gift comes back and blesses the one who gave it! Don't forget to encourage those who encourage others...they need those refreshing words just like you. Encourage yourself as well....encourage yourself with songs (of God's faithfulness) and promises (from His Word), and just good pep talks every now and then. Speak words of life and hope to all you meet, even the person in the mirror!

So now we have a week's worth of lessons in a four letter word, "L.I.V.E." Go out and really LIVE life today.

(Special thanks to Milton Miskel for inspiration in this blog, and congratulations to Channing. Channing, you already show the signs of God's hand in your life and you truly know how to L.I.V.E.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Okay, one thing I have never been accused of is being quiet. I have a voice that carries and the more excited I get, the louder I get. This is not always a blessing and I'm sure to those around me it would be considered a curse. I definitely "live life out loud".

For a while, there was a commercial for a phone company that used the phrase, "Can you hear me now," as their catch phrase. It really caught on and you hear this said in just about every area of life. Today I was thinking about how it relates to my spiritual walk. I often tell my students that anyone can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk....actions speak louder than words. My deeds shout out while my words drone on.

Any teacher can relate to trying to hear what someone is saying while the rest of the class just gets LOUD. It's almost impossible to hear above the din. As Christians, I think perhaps we're trying to share Jesus with the world and we can hardly be heard above the noise of everything else around us. The answer is to use something that speaks louder than words....actions.

1 Peter 2:10 - 12 (Message Bible) says: But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
11-12Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

What do my actions speak? Do they match my words? Am I living a life that people can hear? I want to approach each day as another opportunity to show Christ to the world. I'm trying to be heard above the din of the world, and sometimes my own selfish actions. It's time to make sure the Good News can be heard by living a life that shouts out of His goodness, mercy and grace. So the question I ask myself today is, "Can they hear me now?" If not, then it's time to crank it up a notch so that all may hear and come to Him. What will my actions say today?