Filling Life's Potholes with God's Perfection

“As for God, His way is perfect.” (Psalm 18:30)

Ready For A Better Week?

Ready For A Better Week?

A common thought around my house last week was, “What in the world is going on?” My family rarely gets sick, but my passing out Monday, then hurling, and finally acquiring the mother of all headaches on the heels of surgery turned the week into quite a ride – a ride to the doctor’s office on Thursday and the ER on Friday night.

It may sound strange, but I’ve never felt so blessed. My man went above and beyond the call of duty. Who knew he was such a good cook! Then, my sweet family and friends blessed me with visits, hugs, phone calls, and texts. They made sure I knew I was loved and cared for!

But I have to admit, it was my time in prayer that comforted me most. Maybe you are in need of some comfort too. Maybe your work week has already slid downhill and you need a pick-me-up. Perhaps, there is a relationship that’s taken all you have to give and then some. Maybe you’re physically or emotionally sick. Are you longing to hear just one good thing that might possibly get you through the muck? Maybe I have what you need.

When I wasn’t in Lala Land, I got to spend lots of time talking to Jesus. As I began talking with Him in my mind, random reassurances of His love emerged rapidly. They came in no particular order, but together they all confirmed the love God has for me. I thought you might like to be reminded that you are loved, cared for, and held securely by the One who has the power to change your outlook. If that’s something you need today, picture Jesus sitting with you as you read the following prayer to Him. Take your time. Read slowly, and feel the love He has for you.

I thank you, Lord, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that your hand is always on me, and that you know me so well. I know that you are for me and not against me, and that you knew all the days ordained for me before one of them came to be. You faithfully go before me and behind me. You work everything for my good. You turn my mourning into dancing and you give me a song in the night. You are my Shepherd who leads me beside still waters. You make me lie down in green pastures. You anoint my head with oil. My blessings overflow because of you. Your mercies are new every single morning. You make my path straight and my burdens easy. I will fear no evil because you are with me. I know that the power you’ve placed inside of me is greater than the power in this world. When I resist the evil one, he flees from me. I find rest in you and you alone. No one knows me like you do. You know the plans you have for me even when I don’t – and they are always for my good. Even while I was still a sinner you sent your Son to die for me, so that we could be together forever. You are my Rock and my Redeemer. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can separate me from your love – not life nor death, not angels nor rulers, nothing present and nothing to come, no powers, not life nor death, and not any created thing will EVER diminish your love for me. Because I have witnessed your hand in my life over and over, I will not be afraid. Though the storms surround me and the waters rise, your hand will keep me safe. Your love has shown me that I am a chosen part of your royal family, I am holy, and best of all, I am your special possession. I will sing your praises today, tomorrow, and throughout eternity. You have never forsaken me, not for one minute, but you have disciplined me when I needed it. I know that only true love does that. Yes, you’ve pulled me out of many pits, and you’ve given me solid ground to stand on. You’ve shown me how suffering can be used to write new songs of thanksgiving and praise. Help those songs, Lord, bring glory to your name. Let others find what I have found in you. You are my Mighty God, my Wonderful Counselor, my Everlasting Father, and my Prince of Peace. I am continuously filled with a glorious and inexpressible joy.  Thank you for setting me free. And as always, Lord, it’s not to us, but to your name that we give all glory and praise forever and ever.  Amen.

May God help you turn this week into your best week ever!

I Am, You Are, We Are

I Am, You Are, We Are

I doubt you will, but just in case you search for me early on Monday mornings, you’ll find me with a random group of women I’ve come to adore. This group longs to deepen their relationship not only with each other, but more importantly with Jesus. We are a hodgepodge of ages, backgrounds, theologies, and worship styles. We sing together. Pray together. Study together. Sometimes eat together. Serve together. Cry together. And we laugh a whole lot together. I guess it would be safe to say that together we are the church.

No, we don’t all worship in the same place on Sundays, but we believe that Jesus is who He says He is, that He does what He says He will do, and that He does it for us – over and over and over. We know that it is only the blood of Jesus that has erased our sins and put us in good standing with God. It is that same blood that continually showers us with a grace that’s undeserved. Because we know this, we relentlessly love God and are constantly hoping to learn how to love those around us more compassionately. Yes, we are the church. And, if you believe, accept, and proclaim these things, you are the church too!

As members of the church, each one of us is chosen, loved, blessed, forgiven, and redeemed. We are sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are guarded and protected by the cross of Jesus. We are taught by God and entrusted with His Word. We inspire each other to be joyful even in sadness, to be calm in the midst of chaos, to be patient when we can’t see an answer, to be hopeful when we’re discouraged, and to serve those who can’t return the favor.  Yes, we are the church!

“This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message

Our mission is a holy mission propelled by supernatural power. There is no greater purpose. No greater calling. No greater responsibility. And no greater thrill. The mission we gladly choose to accept is to proclaim the greatness of our God! We stay watchful for His hand. Thankful for His blessings. Amazed by His providence. Astounded by His power and confounded by His creation. Shouting about His faithful love, amazing grace, and the power of His Spirit comes naturally. Our purpose does not lack importance. It is not frivolous. It is never trivial. Our purpose is to be the church Jesus died for. To love being the church that attracts others to Jesus. To become a bride fit for Jesus our groom. And, to speak well of the church that represents Christ!

And all the church said …

Due Honor

Due Honor

On February 3rd of 2013, Dodge effectively used Paul Harvey’s tribute to the American farmer in their memorable Super Bowl commercial for the Ram truck. The poetic rhetoric captured not only the value of the farmer, but also Harvey’s inimitable style. I became mesmerized by this style and thought I’d give it a try. Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, so I decided to show some love and honor to my husband.

Before I share what I wrote, I thought you should know that if you’re reading this on Tuesday, my man has gotten up with me before the chickens to get me to a little surgery on time. (Nothing major mind you.) He will calm my nerves before they call me back, wait patiently while I sleep through the procedure, make sure I get home safely, and tuck me in for a little more sleep. He’ll bring me food, give me my medicine on time, smile, and kiss my head. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. It’s this kind of love that teaches me to express my love for God through service to others – not because I have to, but because I want to.

Whether you have a husband in your life or not, join me in paying tribute to all the men in your life. Fathers, husbands, sons, grandsons, brothers, cousins and nephews. God knows they need a few kind words of thanks.

So, God Created a Husband

God, knowing His complete plan for bringing mankind into an intimate relationship with Himself, smiled as he looked into the future and said, “I need a leader.”

So, God created a husband.

This amazing new world would need someone hard-working, strong, and not easily discouraged. There would be a need for one who was willing to work in the cold to keep his family warm, sweat when he’d rather take it easy, be courageous in the face of danger, and exhibit toughness when the road gets rocky.

So, God created a husband.

There would be ditches to dig, cars to fix, roads to pave, houses to build, and mortgages to pay. Someone would be needed to plan for the future while getting things done; dream dreams while making them come true one day at a time; strengthen relationships by simply letting his feelings show.

So, God created a husband.

Yes, there would be a need for a leader – a man who meets in executive session with his heavenly Leader every day; someone who admits his weaknesses, but doesn’t hide behind them; a man who can turn a wrench, then turn to gently kiss his baby girl; a man who places fence posts just so, but is more concerned with setting his son on the right path. There would definitely be a need for a father.

So, God created a husband.

God also knew there would come a need in the heart of a woman for someone on earth to see her as the woman she hoped to be, rather than who she is; someone who might not understand every tear, nod, wink or smile, but is willing to share them all. She would need someone to help her better understand God’s love by loving her without restraint. Her heart would want to skip a beat at the most unexpected times and long for a touch that said more than any words. God knew the heart of a woman …

So, God created a husband.

As the man stood tall and newly created, God understood that he would want to be loved and respected by a family who took pride in him. He would need reminders of how much he is admired and appreciated. But mostly, he would need daily acts of love, encouragement, and time to become all the things God intended him to be.

So, God created a wife!

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Romans 12:9-12

God, What’s Going On?

God, What’s Going On?

I stay amazed at the process God leads me through to write a new blog each week. Usually, I throw a couple of random thoughts into my blog pot at the end of the week and allow them to simmer over the weekend. Then on Monday, I gaze into the bottom of that pot to see what sort of concoction materializes. Sometimes, it’s all still a jumbled mess that must be sorted through and prayed over. But on days like today, it’s quite easy to see how all my thoughts can boil down to one significant topic. Let me explain.

For the last two weeks I’ve been reading the book of Job as part of our church’s One Year Bible reading plan. Considering all I’ve experienced lately, I now read Job through a different set of eyes. My focus has shifted from Job’s sufferings and his less-than-helpful friends to what I feel is really the message of the entire book: God uses the bad things that happen to good people for an eternal purpose.

Last Thursday night at a Bible study with some women in drug rehab, I was blessed to sit beside a young lady who needed to look on with me as we studied the Scriptures together. The group discussed several Bible verses, and she made a mental note of the words “so that” being circled in my Bible every time she saw them. Later, she asked me about it. I told her I began marking them so I could get a clearer picture of God’s purpose revealed throughout Scripture. I shared with her my favorite “so that” Scripture found in 2 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession SO THAT you may declare the praises of Him who brought you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

Now, fast forward to my Monday morning Bible study group. The lady leading the discussion brought up Psalm 40:1-3. This is one of my most favorite Scriptures in the whole Bible! David boldly declares, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and hear and put their trust in God.” 

Quite frankly, it’s taken Job, Peter, and David to help me make sense of the suffering of a very dear, 21-year-old friend of mine. I’d never heard of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, but I know it now! And I’m not so sure that it’s not the exact kind of suffering Job endured. With this disease, your skin blisters painfully and peels away. You become susceptible to infection and have to be treated much like a burn victim. It’s been a horrific process, but through it all, my friend and her family have remained hopeful, prayerful, and faithful. Their testimony has strengthened my faith and the faith of many. They know, and I know, that this sweet young lady is God’s special possession. I believe that God and those providing treatment hear this family’s songs as they continue to praise Him for allowing them to feel His abiding presence.

The lady who sat next to me in drug rehab will have a new song in her mouth once her feet get firmly planted on the Rock. My young suffering friend will no doubt sing the praises of the One who brought her out of her darkness into His wonderful light. And as for us Monday Morning Bible Study girls? We’ve changed our tune about pain and disappointment. 

Jesus told us that “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) Without some lingering discomfort, our minds stay tuned to our old, comfortably familiar melodies. If we are not careful, those songs can become stale and lose their ability to minister to those looking for a better station with new call letters. 

Suffering writes the lyrics to the new song God puts in our mouths. When we allow pain to push us into the arms of Jesus, we find rest in His promises. We then begin praying through the pain, and we seek help from faithful friends who help transform our caterwauling into a magnificent symphony.

God doesn’t cause the pain, but He allows it. He uses it for our good. He helps us exchange our screeching notes for ones that lilt and flow. I told my group yesterday that my 18-month-process had been a nightmare, but I would go through it all again to find what I have now – the realization of God’s reassuring love, presence and … 

Absolute.

Pure.

JOY!

I don’t know what you’re going through, but maybe your song is being rewritten so that you can make an eternal difference in the life of someone else. Listen to the song God sings over you. Learn the words and the melody. 

Then SING to the top of your lungs!

A Father’s Love

A Father’s Love

Saturday, my son became a father to the precious little baby girl our family eagerly anticipated. I watched his heart melt as he cradled her in his arms. He held her close and sang to her sweetly, gently stroking her velvety cheek with his finger. He kept her warm and protected. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. He is known for flashing his giant smile, but this new gentle smile displays all the daddy-love in his heart. He will forever put his life on the line for her, giving her the best of his love, time, attention, and affection. 

As she grows, he will be more than willing to forgive her when she does wrong. Disciplining her will break his heart, but he will do it because he wants good things for her. She will be covered with every blessing at his disposal – not because she’s earned them, but because he loves her. All he will ask in return is that she love him with the same love he has for her.

So it is with our Abba Father. God eagerly longs to have an intimate relationship with us. He eagerly anticipates our climbing into His lap so we can share our hearts with Him. In His lap we are kept warm and protected by His embrace. When we feel we can’t take another step physically or emotionally, we can lay back in His arms and listen as He sings over us. He won’t stop smiling at us because of His great love for us. We are His joy and the apple of His eye. 

Jesus proved the love He has for us by paying for all of our mistakes. He put His love on the line. His blood covers our sin and makes us clean enough to want to crawl into the lap of the living God for forgiveness, mercy, and endless love.

This past Sunday, my mother would have celebrated her 80thbirthday. She would have loved to love on our new little girl, but she will eventually have all of eternity to love on all of us again. Needless to say, my emotions have been tender, but mostly I’ve been so very thankful for all the hard times that brought me to this past weekend. 

Sunday morning at church we sang a song that I used to play when I’d drive my mom to her doctor visits. It’s one of my favorites. Every time I played it she would tell me how much she liked it. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) Singing Love on the Line by Hillsong seemed like the perfect way to celebrate my mother’s birthday and the birth of my new granddaughter. 

These lyrics mean the most to me:

With all I am
In Your grace I stand
The greatest of all romance
Love of God
My Savior

To the One who has rescued my soul
To the One who has welcomed me home
To the One who is Savior of all
I sing forever

Love on the Line by Hillsong Worship

As you continue to grow in Christ, He will be more than willing to forgive you when you do wrong. Disciplining you will break His heart, but He will do it because He wants good things for you. You will be covered with every blessing at His disposal – not because you’ve earned them, but because He loves you. All He will ask in return is that you love Him with the same love He has for you.

You Know I Love You, Right?

You Know I Love You, Right?

This month marks the ninth anniversary of Perfection Road. What a journey it’s been! Many of you wobbled those first baby steps right along with me, and I can’t thank you enough for the love and encouragement you’ve given me. To those of you who’ve recently become “Roadies”, thank you for taking the time to travel along. What better occasion to restate the purpose of our journey together and allow you to see a treasure I received Saturday!

First, the Purpose

A few weeks ago, I was asked the same question I’ve been asked many times, “What do you write about?” Normally, I give a pat answer about writing Christian books or I mention Perfection Road’s tagline: Filling life’s potholes with God’s perfection. However, this time my newfound joy inspired a much better answer to that question!  I blurted out a very simple answer, “I write about everything Jesus has done in my life!” 

Isn’t that what this life is all about, sharing the new song of joy that Jesus places in our mouths so that others will hear it and want what we’ve found? My journey differs from yours only in that we often experience similar things in a different order. We all trek through hurts that need healing, negative thinking that needs changing, grief that needs counseling, relationships that need mending, stress that needs rest, and yes, we are all addicted to something. When we share our struggles, we learn from one another. Giving God the credit for working everything out for our good grows our faith and the faith of our listeners.

I constantly see things in my life that need more than a little tweaking. I’m sure you do as well. However, for the first time in my life, I am finally convinced that God loves me no matter how many mistakes I make. I will always be His and He will always be mine. You can have that confidence too if you are willing to place His hand on your steering wheel. Nothing can separate you from His love. You can remain confident and secure in that fact from now through eternity. 

In the meantime, I’m willing to allow others into my story because I realize I am not the author of my story. Thank God, He is! “His way perfect.” (Psalm 18:30) Perfection Road is one way I can give God the glory He deserves. “Not to us, Lord, but to Your name be all the glory.” (Psalm 115:1)

The Treasure

Of all the topics I’ve address here on the Road, none got as much response as the ones describing the depression I felt. Our world suffers from a spirit of heaviness. Just take a glance at social media or the news and you’ll see all the symptoms: criticism, anger, rage, slander, abuse, and suicide rates. It’s enough to make even the strongest of us depressed.

In the depths of my depression I found the cure – His name is Jesus. Yes, some depressed people definitely need medication to cope. All need counseling. But I will contend until my last breath that depression cannot be totally defeated without experiencing the presence of Jesus. There is no true peace without the Prince of Peace.

How we experience His presence will be different for each of us. It may take a moment of great drama or it may happen in a quiet, subtle moment.

For me, it was at the beach last summer. You can call it a dream or a vision or just something I made up. I really don’t care. All I know is that at my lowest moment I saw Jesus sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean. I knew it was Him, so I entered into that vision. As I laid in the rented beach chair, He turned His head and smiled that great big smile of His and said, “You know I love you, right?” My eyes teared up as I answered, “Yes, but do you know how much I love you?” He just kept smiling as He walked over and sat next to me. I felt Him stroke my hair away from my eyes while I looked into His. He quietly said, “You just need to rest.”

There were a few more words we shared that are between Him and me, but there in that one moment I heard the remedy for depression. Rest. Not just physical and emotional rest, but spiritual rest. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Since that day, I have closed my eyes many times and seen the same Jesus I saw on the beach. He comforts and reassures me the second my peace is threatened. My Sunday morning worship means so much more now because I know to whom I’m singing. 

I wanted to capture that special moment at the beach, so I asked my artist friend Katie Wilson to paint what I saw that day. She was the only person I knew with the talent and relationship with Jesus that could enter into that scene with me. She asked for a recording describing the scene in detail, then she did exactly what I knew she would. She asked the Holy Spirit to help her see what I saw that day. You may doubt this whole story, and that’s okay. But, can I just encourage you by saying that Katie painted EXACTLY what I saw that day – to the very last detail? That couldn’t happen without entering into His presence and asking for help. 

Perfection Road exists so that the name of Jesus can be magnified. He is more than ready, willing, and able to reveal Himself to you if you give Him the chance. 

“And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” 

John 14:21

As Katie handed me the painting she said, “I titled it, You Know I Love You, Right?” What better title!

You Know I Love You, Right?
Katie Wilson

(Untitled)

He Wore the Dust

He Wore the Dust

Which sin do you think plagued all the kings of Israel and most of the those in Judah? It’s the same sin that filtered down to the common people of Israel. Even today, our world is overwhelmed by it. And if we’re completely honest, it continues to afflict the Lord’s church today. It’s the sin of unbelief. 

Israel’s continuous unbelief caused many, including Moses, to miss the Promised Land. It eventually fractured God’s chosen people into two nations – Israel and Judah. None of Israel’s kings worshipped the One True God and only a few kings of Judah did right in the eyes of the Lord. 

Asa and Hezekiah removed idols and their altars, chopped down obscene images made to worship the goddess Asherah, and then burned them all in the Kidron Valley. (1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chronicles 33:15)

After Josiah read God’s words in the newly discovered Book of the Law, he became passionate about following all that was written. He brought everything out of the Lord’s temple that had been made to worship Baal, Asherah, and the stars of the sky and burned them in the fields of, you guessed it, the Kidron Valley. He burned the Asherah pole in the Kidron Valley, beat it to dust, and threw the dust on the graves of the common people. He also tore down altars made by Manasseh, smashed them, and threw their dust, yes, in the Kidron Valley. (2 Kings 23:4, 6, 12)

What I find so incredible is that the Kidron Valley is exactly where Jesus walked on His way to Gethsemane. All the ashy dust from Israel’s unbelief had no doubt mingled deeply within the soil of the valley. Jesus’ sandals slapped across the Upper Room, down the steps, and around Jerusalem’s wall. Making His way through the Kidron Valley, His feet became coated with that same dust of unbelief. With every step, Jesus’ garments collected the dust. As His hair tossed back and forth in the breeze, it no doubt caught dust particles that hitched a ride to Gethsemane.

Jesus wore the dusty remains of Israel’s sin all the way to the garden of surrender. He knew the sin of unbelief up-close and personal. He knew the religious crowd – the ones who washed their outsides, but did nothing about their dirty insides. He knew there were many who still refused to believe that He was who He said He was, that He could do all He said He could do, and that He could do it for them. As He fell on His face before His Father begging for pardon, bloody sweat mixed with those dusty ashes of unbelief. 

It was there, in Gethsemane, where Jesus beautifully displayed His faithful love. He gave up His own will so that He could eventually be raised from the dead so you and I can have zero doubts about our all-powerful, One True God. He wants you to believe that He can do everything He claims, and He can do it for you. You only have to surrender, and let Him do it.

Jesus’ body died on the cross. Yet, His will died in a grieving, dusty, tear-drenched moment of prayerful surrender. I believe Jesus modeled that gut-wrenching prayer to teach us what is most important. God doesn’t care so much about your outsides being clean when you come to Him. He’s not concerned with your religion. He wants you to surrender, believe, and give Him your heart. When He takes control of your heart, your mind, your will, and your emotions, He’ll clean you from the inside out, and you’ll want to stay that way!

Believe, and enter into God’s rest.

“Watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.”

Hebrews 3:12-14, The Message

 

 

Refresh Your Brain

Refresh Your Brain

My daughter and I laughed out loud at the way I’d tangled my words into a knot. I half-jokingly commented, “I think these last 18 months have fried my brain cells! Here lately, I make absolutely no sense.” We laughed some more, and I attempted to untangle what I’d said.

Even though I tried to laugh it off, deep down I knew that something wasn’t exactly right. I didn’t think too much about forgetting names; that’s a common symptom of getting older. Being disoriented when trying to find my way around didn’t bother me either since I’ve always been that way. But when I began having trouble keeping my schedule straight and focusing on what I was reading? That bothered me. Even my writing takes longer than usual. Can you identify with any of this? 

Like any good school teacher, I decided to do some research. In that process I found an interesting article by the Harvard Medical School that threw some light on my issue. (Now, stay with me! I know this sounds a little nerdy, but I guarantee it will comfort those of us who have been stressed and depressed or love someone who has.)

I had learned in school back in the 70’s that we are born with a fixed number of brain cells (neurons). We were taught that we should take very good care those cells because our brains don’t manufacture new ones. Today, while we still need to care for our brains, I’ve learned that brain cells can regenerate! God made each of us with a part of the brain called the hippocampus which does the following things:

  • Stores long-term memories 
  • Aids the learning of new information
  • Regulates emotions

Most interesting to me was the fact that after repeated bouts of depression, a person’s hippocampus can shrink by 10%, thus diminishing those three functions. However, thanks to our Creator, we can increase our number of neurons with some common-sense adjustments. Learning this helped me better understand the emotional roller-coaster I used to be on. I am more patient with myself now when learning new things because my neurons are regenerating. I had lost so many over the last 18 months through bouts of fear, stress, grief, and depression. 

With God’s help and direction, I’ve done the hard work, and He will continue to bless my efforts. I’ve gone back through my pain and yanked out every gnarly branch by the root. I’ve been on my knees and in the Word. I’ve read the books my counselor recommended, and I’ve made difficult changes. I’ve repented of things I’ve done wrong, repaired all that I can, and am in the process of renewing relationships Satan tried to destroy. God has been so good to bless me with new friends who don’t mind me practicing my newly acquired friendship skills on them. God never gave up on me. He knew when to step in and help and when to strengthen me through a struggle. He will do the same thing for you, IF you willingly enter into His process. 

Are you wondering about those common-sense adjustments that help regenerate brain cells? Here are four that have been shown to move you toward a healthier brain:

1)  Sustained Aerobic Activity

Resistance training (weight lifting) and interval training (short bursts of intense exercise followed by cool-down periods) are good for other body functions, but when it comes to the brain, it’s activities like jogging, power walking, swimming, and rowing that do the trick.

2) Stress Relief

This can be any pleasurable activity that relaxes your mind and body. The research specifically mentioned frequent sex as the number one stress reliever for both men and women.

3) Neurobics

Neurobics are brain exercises that increase your focus. For example, using your non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks, having real life face-to-face conversations, and reading new information. Personally, I’m also counting on my blog-writing process to add a few new neurons. 🙂

4) Healthy Diet

This may be the simplest, but the most difficult one of all to adhere to. Here are a few things to incorporate into your diet:

Whatever your particular issue, God can and will help. He is the God of second chances … and third, and fourth, and however many it takes to transform you into the likeness of Christ. He’s even made your body with built-in second chance mechanisms so that you can better serve others quietly and rejoice loudly. Whether you’re the one struggling, or you’re trying to help someone else, take a minute and think on these words: 

“I’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? The 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. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”

Romans 7:24-8:2, The Message

Enter into God’s process, and let the Spirit magnificently clear your air!

The Blog You Helped Write

The Blog You Helped Write

Friday, I asked my friends on Perfection Road’s FaceBook page to write captions for pictures I recently took in the Smokey Mountains. I promised to use the one most liked as the jumping off place for today’s post. Since there were so many good ones, I decided to use them ALL in hopes of extracting a few more ounces of creativity from my fingertips. Thanks to everyone who participated. If You haven’t liked Perfection Road on FaceBook yet, I’d love to meet you there! Happy Tuesday!

Fires started carelessly by flicked matches burn just as hot as those caused by lightning strikes. Both burn. Both consume. One smolders into flame. The other bursts into a roaring inferno. 

The same is true for tragedy. 

Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and unmet expectations flicked aside soon smolder into flames that scorch our most precious relationships. Even the tiniest flickers of discontent have the potential to blaze a trail of destruction that often jumps onto the lives of innocent bystanders. Then again, our hearts are often charred by the lightning strikes of sudden late-night phone calls, accidents, unwanted confessions, or doctors’ reports. 

All of us surely know by now this kind of heat is common to man. And, as Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So, where do we turn when the flames threaten? 

We run to the Rock of our salvation. 

We run to the Word that steadies us. 

We run to Jesus. 

There is no shortcut. No other remedy. Nothing but Jesus can quench the flaming arrows flung by Satan. He holds protection and healing in His hands, but we must go to Him to receive it.

Time with Jesus refreshes us enough to either search for beauty among the ashes or pilfer through the weeds before the fire begins to rage. God lovingly unveils hidden treasures that stoke new life in those who take the time to seek them out. Some of those treasures are nestled in His Word, and some reveal themselves in the form of family and friends who cling to Jesus as their fire extinguisher. 

By sharing common hurts and pains we offer support to one another. We are wired to share our struggles so that we can declare the praises of the One who delivers us. When we refuse to admit our weaknesses, we short-circuit God’s design for relationships. We minimize the power of the Holy Spirit, and we turn Jesus’ sacrifice into a meaningless death.

I know you know this, but let me remind you. The blood of Jesus can lift you to the highest mountain. There, you offer humble thanks for His unfailing love. The blood of Jesus can also fill the lowest valley to quench your fiercest firestorm. It’s there, in the smoldering depths, where your trust forms.

If you know Jesus as your best friend, you already know all of this. If you know Jesus merely as the man whose sacrifice reconnected you to God, well … you’re on the right track. Keep talking to Him, and listen closer until you hear Him speak to your heart. You’re going to be amazed at the power of His friendship. 

If you don’t know Jesus, let me tell you He’s quite a hoot! He’s a storyteller and a teacher. A healer and a counselor. He can calm the seas to bless you or allow yours to be stirred to make you better. He is the center of everything, and He’s in the business of transformation. He offers peace, hope, grace, and mercy. There is no one greater. No one wiser. No one so powerful. He knows you. He made you. He gave His life for you. In Him there is freedom. 

If Jesus is not part of my world, I want no part of this world. He is the rock I stand upon. He is the new song in my mouth. He stands with me in the fire and washes me in His Word. Because He has come to my rescue over and over, transformed my life, given me hope for the future, and set me free, I believe in Jesus, and I love Him. 

Let the world fade into smoke. Just give me Jesus!

Nothing Else Will Do

Nothing Else Will Do

Do you have “dry-bone” days? You know, those days when you’ve either poured out all you have to give or you’ve had every ounce of confidence snatched from your body. When those days come for me, I stare at a blinking cursor for hours, praying for something to write about – anything at all. Those days stretch me.

On the other hand, maybe you experience those “overwhelm-your-soul” kind of days. Those days when you are so saturated by God’s goodness that you can’t find words adequate enough to express your unparalleled delight. Those days motivate me. 

Today, I find myself completely engulfed by the faithful love of our God. He has convinced me now more than ever that our relationships with Him and others will never be what He intended unless we truly believe He loves us. We can’t even love ourselves until we know how much we are loved by God.

Do you hear that? God loves YOU! 

You, with all your roller-coaster emotions. 

You, with your unkind thoughts that turn into words. 

You, with all the many faults you see when you look inside.  

He is working mightily right now to arrange blessings and healing. He’s putting people in your path to help. He knows your heart and your mind, and He loves you anyway. 

This past Sunday morning our church service turned emotional quickly. Our young pastor shared his feelings about it being our last Sunday in the place we’d called home for several years. He talked of all those who had come to know Jesus for the first time in that space and those who had returned to their first love. (Ron and I were in that group.) Next Sunday will find us in a brand-new space looking forward to what God will surely do. 

Just after the pastor spoke, we sang a song that I’ve played at least a hundred times since. For me, it was a perfect moment. One that quietly and reverently ushered in the presence of the Spirit and reminded me that all I ever needed was Jesus. Later, that afternoon I posted these words and Scripture on my Facebook page:

Sunday is my favorite day, but I’ve never experienced one quite like today. Joyful emotion dripped off my chin as I realized NOTHING hung over me – absolutely nothing! Every hurt had been healed, every known sin had been repented of, every strained relationship mended, and I am blessed beyond all measure! Not only is God good, He is faithful to deliver healing and more than willing to refresh our spirits. Hallelujah!

If right now your heart is broken, lay it in the lap of Jesus. If you have relationships that need tending, mend the one you have with Jesus first. God will dazzle you with good people who show up at just the right time to walk beside you. If you feel completely overwhelmed with negative emotions, spend time in the Word – a lot of time! You don’t have time? Make time. Be willing to enter into a long, and sometimes grueling, healing process led by the Holy Spirit. He won’t let you be led by your feelings, but He will make sure you feel Him leading you.

After I posted my thoughts about Sunday morning, my aunt commented with one simple word, “FREEDOM!!!” 

Amen to that! 

My life is living proof that God can, does, and will continue to be all any of us ever need. Nothing else will do.

Please don’t skip listening to the song we sang Sunday morning. If this is not your thing, give it a try anyway. Close your eyes and enter into your own holy moment. With every line of the song remind yourself of God’s faithful love. Picture Jesus smiling at you. He has a great smile! Feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, and prepare to be overwhelmed.

Nothing else will do.

Don’t Just Say It

Don’t Just Say It

Back during my school teaching days, the entire fifth grade class loaded the busses for field trips at the end of every year. It warmed our teacher hearts to see abstract facts and concepts suddenly spring to life before our students’ eyes.

Yet, perhaps the most important life lessons learned on these trips were those about being polite, listening to directions, following the rules, and well-representing our school. As teachers, we knew when we loaded the busses and headed back home it would be the school’s name that would stick in the minds of those who had guided us throughout the day. Because of our behavior, the name of the school would either be mocked or admired.

It’s the same with Christians. We can listen to great messages every Sunday, study scriptures in small groups, and talk about loving God and others all day long, but when we actually set foot into the real world our walk speaks loudest.

I’ve been convicted recently by the apostle John’s words, “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18) I don’t want to say the words “I love you” unless I know I’ve somehow demonstrated that love. As a result, I’m trying to be more responsible with the phrase I once tossed around so flippantly. I want heft in my “I love you’s”. I want you to feel loved before you ever hear me say it. 

Perhaps, God likes it that way too. Maybe, He feels most loved by us when He sees us laying down our lives for His other children – even the ones who make loving hard. Can we really say we love God if we don’t take the time to love His other children – especially those living in our own homes?

Year after year, our fifth-grade classes, with few exceptions, represented our school (and us) very well. In fact, we received many compliments on our student’s behavior on those field trips. Each class knew the reputation of the ones that had gone before them and decided not to be the ones to let us down. 

Let’s not be the generation that drops the ball when it comes to love. We can give the world reason to sit up and take note, not only of the love we give them, but also of the love we give one another. Oh, God, help us remember it’s the sweet name of Jesus that will either be mocked or admired.

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” 

Romans 12:9-10, The Message



Old Secrets, Roller Coaster Emotions, & Faithful Friendship

Old Secrets, Roller Coaster Emotions, & Faithful Friendship

Last July, I sat across the table from a woman who had been my best friend throughout my teen years. She spent many a night at our house and even went on vacation with us. We shared clothes, cruised the highway, and baked brownies in the middle of the night. We knew each other so well that we often finished each other’s sentences. 

Needless to say, my mom’s passing just three months earlier had affected her almost as much as me. So, after our time of separate grieving, we each drove halfway to meet for lunch so we could reminisce. 

We laughed and cried, much like the old days. But then! Without even giving it a proper second thought, I blurted out, “I’m about to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone. Not anyone! Ever!” (Even now, I’ve only told a very small circle of people – until today!)

Her eyebrows jumped to attention as her eyes laser-locked mine. Neither of us thought there was anything the other one didn’t know. Before I knew it, I had spit out the details of an encounter with a relative that left an indelible mark on my heart. 

She remembered the guy who came for a visit every now and then as being a creep. As a young child, I thought of him as simply the guy 15 years older who carried me to the store, bought me candy, and even gave me piggyback rides. He was someone I trusted to take care of me even though he was easily agitated by my childlike nonsense. 

I was about 10 years old; he was around 25. He suffered from a failure to launch and was back home living with his parents. I often hung out in his room when I stayed there with his parents. On this particular day, there was no one home except him and me. 

It could have been much, much worse. During my teaching days I taught a few fifth-grade girls who had been through so much more. Still, the damage caused by his unwanted advances took root in my soul. Satan smiled knowing the foul fruit that would grow from this.

I was a feisty 10-year-old, so I managed to push him off of me. By the grace of God, he stopped suddenly and seemed to come to his senses. As confusing as his actions were, it was the words he spoke that caused me the most harm. Glaring at me, he threatened, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad.”  

As a 61-year-old woman, I now know he merely wanted to save his own perverted hide. However, what my young, and suddenly not-so-innocent mind heard was, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad … at you!” And so, it began.

I became a people-pleasing, rule-following, emotion-stuffing machine who never wanted to rock the boat. My parents taught me to follow God, but I became a religious rule follower who thought God would be mad at me if I didn’t get everything just right. I didn’t take criticism well, since accepting it meant I was wrong. If anyone tried to physically hold me down, I tore into them like a buzz saw. I slept for years with my hands outside the covers, ready to fight, no matter how cold I was. I became prideful and overly competitive. If I couldn’t be the best, I stopped playing. My insecure need to win the acceptance and love of others caused major friendship failures in every decade of my life. Yes, that would be five damaged friendships I’m trying to stop grieving over. I grew into a person who was whitewashed on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside. 

My reason for telling you this story is twofold:

1.  If you have a secret you’ve not told, I’m praying you will find the courage to tell a family member or friend. If you feel you can’t tell someone you know, then find a Christian counselor who will guide you through the healing process. There is great freedom in shining Light in the dark places.

2.  I want you to enjoy the freedom that can be yours! Satan tried his best to finish me off with whispered lies. In fact, he came very close. He’s most likely playing the same trick on you! He doesn’t want you free because he knows free people free people!

I became desperate enough to beg God for healing, and He did not let me down. The Holy Spirit has since led me step by step through the wardrobe of fear and into a Narnia-like place of wonder that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I hope all my days find me this wide-eyed at the wonder of God’s faithful love.

I remember telling my counselor friend that I just wanted to be normal. She asked me what I thought normal was. I told her that I wanted to be consistent. I knew that in order for someone to travel my life with me, they had to be willing to ride my emotional roller coaster. Most jumped off sooner or later, but I pushed a few others away because I could see how badly I was hurting them. Thankfully, I had a husband and two very exceptional friends who buckled their seatbelts and came along for the ride, no matter how wild it became.  

Today, we’re all enjoying floating down my emotional lazy river. No more roller coasters! It’s time I repay my man and my friends with some calm consistency! I can’t find words expressive enough to describe how nice it is not to have anything else to sort out or work through in my mind. If my past can be laid to rest, so can yours. If my confidence can be restored, yours can as well.

I think I’ve found my normal. If you’re looking for yours, open up, and let the process begin.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”

Psalm 103:1-5, NLT

Married Lives Matter

Married Lives Matter

The eyes and mouth of a young wife in our small group flew open when she learned that passion can still burn brightly between a husband and wife in their sixties. I was amazed that she was so flabbergasted by that! 

Since Ron began building starter homes a couple of years ago, we’ve been shocked by the number of young, unmarried couples buying houses together. It’s caused me to wonder if our generation has unknowingly contributed to their retreat from marriage. If so, I’d like to lead the charge in the opposite direction. 

I’m posting a couple of days early this week because today Ron and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. For the most part, it’s been an incredible journey. However, we’ve traveled a few divergent paths that God graciously used to merge us into oneness. Like most married couples, we came from two distinct roads bringing our own bags of life. Unpacking them and refilling them with the presence of the Lord has superglued our bond. We’ve both made some major mistakes, suffered great losses, and butted heads numerous times, but we’ve gotten lots of things right too.

We started out as two young kids who had to communicate about bank accounts, household duties, toilet seats, and toothpaste tubes. We learned a smidge about parenting after getting a new puppy, and I learned you don’t jack up a car on the fender. Ron learned at what point to hand me a tissue during a chick flick. I learned to pay attention when he needed some stress relief. Then, with the birth of our daughter and son, our parenting skills rose to a whole new level. From those two amazing children, God has blessed us with 4 ½ perfect 🙂 grandchildren who still teach us way more than we teach them. Through it all, the Spirit of God has led us valiantly whenever we handed Him the wheel. 

When our grandchildren (and our young friends looking for a spouse) observe our life, I want them to see two people crazy about each other after years of intentionally loving one another. I hope they notice the winking glances, the not-so-subtle touches, and the sly grins. I long for them to hear us asking politely and not barking orders. Let them hear from our lips only praise for the other. Let them see in us the same grace and love Jesus has for the church.

Oh Lord, please let all of us who’ve been married a while show the younger generations honest examples of tangible love. Let them see the locked and smiling eyes that say more than words, the proper hugs exchanged for no specific reason, and the lip-lock that puts the Hallmark channel to shame. God, remind married folks that every marriage matters when it comes to personifying the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church. Let our young people see the blessings of marriages committed to excellence. May they long to create what we now enjoy.  Amen!

Since I like to create videos for our family’s special occasions, I designed one for Ron as my way of saying thank you for loving me for 40 years. He’s helped pick up all my broken pieces and painstakingly helped God glue them back together. He helped the Light defeat the dark, and he’s kept me safe. There is no one who means more to me. He is the reason I’m still breathing. I don’t think he’ll mind me sharing his video with you. Maybe 🙂

https://vimeo.com/343820216
Daddy’s Girl Again

Daddy’s Girl Again

It had been a glorious day. To celebrate our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary, my sweet husband recently fulfilled my 20-year-old desire for a convertible. (Yes, he spoils me.) Immediately, each of my four grandchildren wanted a lunch date and a car ride. So, in true “ladies first” fashion my seven-year-old granddaughter and I cruised with the top down to our favorite lunch spot. We ran into a friend and her grandchildren which made the day perfect! Life had finally calmed down enough for me to relax and enjoy the simple blessings God had provided. A glorious day indeed!

Satan, however, hates for the victorious to live victoriously. So, he hatched an evil plot which unfolded during the darkness of the night. About 1:30 in the morning I woke my husband with my screaming until he finally shook me awake. A recurring nightmare had gotten the best of my sleep once again and forced audible fear to interrupt the still of the night. Too scared to go back to sleep I stayed awake the rest of the night.

Events surrounding my mother’s passing last year had conjured up a 50-year-old secret that should have been exposed long, long ago. (My dreams would have been so much sweeter.) I’ll share more of that with you in two weeks. But for now, just know that in order for me to share it with you, I needed to tell my daddy first. I did that last week.

Letting go of that secret not only freed me, but it also reconnected my heart to my daddy’s. So many things in my life would have gone smoother had I just told him from the start. I learned to believe the lies of the enemy: “Don’t ever rock the boat, “Follow all the rules,” “You need to earn the love and respect of the ones you love and respect.” Satan spent 50 years doing a number on me, but I’m not taking it anymore! God’s about to help me use what Satan meant for my harm for the saving of many other women like me. (And there’s a lot of us!)

Not only do I now know that I have an earthly father who will defend me to the end, but I have a heavenly Father who loves me no matter what I do, think, or say. I have a Spirit within me that I’ve learned to listen to who guides me to all the best places. I know that God is always for me and not against me.

Because I finally opened up about my nightmares, I’m blessed with a small army of friends who pray that I only hear Jesus singing over me at night. I admit unashamedly that in my mind I have a distinct picture of Jesus dressed in S.W.A.T. gear standing guard while I sleep. He’s more than ready, willing, and able to take out the enemy whenever he threatens my sleep. 

Maybe you don’t have an earthly father who offers you a safe place to rest, but I’m here to remind you that you do have a heavenly One who never leaves you nor forsakes you. Believe Him when He says, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got this!” 

As my granddaughter and I traveled along blowing in the wind, she raised her hands high in the air and said, “I have my hands in the air, and I just don’t care who sees me!”

Amen! Amen! And Amen! 

Tell someone the something you were never supposed to tell. Feel the love your heavenly Father has for you. Pay attention to the Spirit. Listen to Jesus when He says,

How to Have a Perfect Day Every Day

How to Have a Perfect Day Every Day

It’s funny how a small shift in perspective can change our attitudes on a dime. Problems we once thought significant suddenly pale in comparison when placed against overwhelming circumstances. 

I’ve just recently come to realize that every day is a perfect day for me. Even the stinky ones have a way of teaching me new things that allow me to discover new truths about myself and the relentless love God has for me. Every day, no matter what comes, prepares me just a bit more to lean in to the lives of others.

There is no attitude God cannot change. No outlook that cannot be redirected. No hurtful actions that cannot become useful later. No hurtful words that cannot be replaced with God’s truth. The basic ingredient that helps us hold onto the idea of every day being a perfect one is our willingness to submit to His process.

When my daughter was about ten or eleven we sat in the waiting room at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham waiting to get a second opinion about a chronic bladder problem she’d had since birth. We had visited our local urologist’s office so many times that all of them knew us on a first name basis and often offered to buy our dinner when appointments stretched long. She endured procedure after procedure and medication after medication. Her doctor was convinced she would outgrow her issue (which she did), but we were impatient and wanted immediate healing, so we went looking for someone who could change our circumstances.

As we sat there in the hospital’s waiting room we witnessed a parade of baldheaded children followed by IV poles and lengths of tubes connecting them. We both sat quietly for several moments until I said, “We don’t have anything to worry about, do we?” She agreed. And in those few moments our frustration and impatience with our circumstances turned into a much calmer peace. 

I have been blessed for months now to be on a track that placed snapshots of desperation into my viewfinder. I’ve seen the despair, heartache, and immeasurable grief of others. I’ve seen poverty, loneliness, and abuse. And I’ve personally encountered the only One who can overcome all of our issues. His name is Jesus. What I’ve seen Him do in my life and others, He can do for you – over, and over, and over. 

Maybe you’re that good little church girl or boy who has led a charmed life. You have all you really need materially. You have a good family and enjoy your church. But way down deep you know something is a little off-center. Look around. See those who are hurting. Go to them. (They may even be sitting next to you on your pew.) Look closely into the eyes of those you love, and let them in. Even when distance has come between you and a friend, find a way to let them know you still care. They may be waiting for you to make the first move.  However, if they’ve already made the first move, maybe it’s your turn now.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. 19And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

Philippians 4:11b-13, 19-20
Raging Fires Inside and Out

Raging Fires Inside and Out

Did you know it takes a whopping 1,761 degrees to melt silver? Once melted, impurities boil to the surface and get skimmed away by the silversmith who then turns up the heat to draw out more impurities. This process is repeated over and over until the silversmith can see his reflection in the silver. Only then can the silver be used for special purposes.

It’s not even August yet, but I know some of you have found yourself sweltering in fires hotter than 1,761 degrees. Some of you have lost loved ones, lost relationships, lost your health, or lost what little confidence you had. If that describes you right now, blame Satan. He’s trying with all his might to set your life on fire in order to consume your purpose and testimony. But take heart! Every part of your life that causes you to feel the heat of defeat only stokes the fire of the Holy Spirit living inside you. Greater is the fire burning within you than the fire burning around you. Or, as the apostle John said, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Every sweat-provoking degree thrown at you by the evil flame-thrower has the potential to either consume you or ignite your fight. If you feel you’re about to be consumed by the flames, don’t give up. Fight back by changing the way you think when things heat up. While God didn’t set the wildfire, He will use it to draw out the impurities in your life. Satan will keep turning up the heat until every last doubt, insecurity, and sin rises to capture your attention. He doesn’t want your past mistakes and circumstances to be skimmed off. He wants them to pile up and sit so heavily on your heart that you’re forced to look at them and feel defeated day after day.

Fortunately, Jesus stands in every fire with us. His Holy Spirit fire burns hot from the inside out. If we trust Him, He will not only scoop up major heaps of dross floating on the surface, but He will also flick away even the smallest speck of scum. (I don’t know about you, but I like that image!)

I’m slowly learning to see every struggle as an opportunity to get rid of my junk. When I look at it that way, the fire doesn’t seem nearly so hot. In fact, when I to go to Jesus for relief, Satan’s flames are quenched by the washing of the water of the Word. (Ephesians 5:26)

I’m encouraged by what Paul said to the Corinthians, “He [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

If we think we don’t have anything that needs to be skimmed off of our lives, we may not really believe we need Jesus. Oh, we might have needed Him to save our souls once upon a time, but now we’re tempted to think our transformation is complete. Only those willing to acknowledge their impurities and choose to hold onto Him during the refining process will be used for special purposes. He’s patiently looking for His reflection in our lives.

If life hasn’t heated up where you live right now, get ready! Stuff’s about to float to the top, and after it’s scooped up and thrown out you’ll look more like Jesus as you fulfill your purpose.

Happy Tuesday!

Lord, You give us the good things we need while allowing the not-so-good. Thank you for turning the things Satan means for our harm into things that transform our minds. Give us Your eyes to see what You see. Give us Your heart to love like you. Give us your hands and feet to go where we’re needed and do what You would do. But, Lord, most of all, purify our hearts and give us your mind so that we reflect You. And as always, Lord, it’s not to us, but to your name that we give all praise and glory. Thank You for loving us.

In Jesus name, Amen!

HALT Before You Choose

HALT Before You Choose

How long has it been since you’ve had one of those Romans 7 kind of days, or weeks, or months? You know, when you don’t do the things you know you should do, and you do the very things you know you shouldn’t. Yes, even the apostle Paul admitted to this frustration.

For many months, a Romans 7 attitude wrapped me up and blanketed me with chaos. I finally came to terms with the fact that I know all the right things to do, I just haven’t done them.

I recently heard a message that detailed four specific times when we make poor choices. When we become any four of these things, we need to HALT and take some time to remedy the situation in a healthy manner. Heaven help us, and those around us, when we’re all four of these at the same time. 

Hungry

I’ve studied, taught classes, and written about how to eat a healthy diet that provides healing, abundant energy, and a more positive outlook on life. However, as my emotions unraveled, I began to indulge in more and more comfort food. Empty calories filled my stomach, but did not properly satisfy my hunger. As my weight crept up, my self-esteem bottomed out. I’ve finally chosen to make healthier choices which has helped bring all my numbers at the doctor’s office closer to normal.

Angry

I rarely get angry at other people, but I can lather up a good angry with myself. I’ve said things to me that I would NEVER say to anyone else. I’m hard on myself, and I know it. Now that I’m learning to replace my negative self-talk with the truth I find in Scripture, I’m celebrating every small victory. I’ve also returned to clocking many miles on the walking trail which helps stave off the doldrums that roll my way.

Lonely

My first inclination when my spirit droops is to withdraw from people. Thankfully, I have people around me who encourage me to engage with others when they see me hesitating. We were created for relationship with God and His other children. We were never meant to do life alone. If you begin to seek isolation, know that you need people, and whether you believe it or not, people need you. Life is so much better when it’s shared. 

Tired

This is the toughest one for me. When I get tired, I almost always say things I regret later. I make poor choices in just about every area. For quite a while, sleep has run the other way. Nightmares became so prevalent that I’d wake up in a panic and then be too afraid to go back to sleep. I’m not nice when I haven’t slept. Fortunately, I gave in and tried some non-habit-forming medication my doctor prescribed, and I’m sleeping more soundly. It just doesn’t pay to work yourself into a perpetual tired.

I’m happy to say that depression is no longer my constant companion because I’ve chosen to make better choices. I still have some things to work through and some relationships to mend, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel now. And it’s not a train! 🙂

I received a card Saturday from a precious sister whom I admire greatly. She included one of my favorite verses in her sweet note:

Charles Spurgeon once said, “He that will not hear the gospel of peace, shall never know the peace of the gospel.” If you’re needing some emotional healing, run to the One who longs to feed your hungry soul, who will turn your anger into positive action, who will be with you now and forever, and the only One qualified to give you sweet rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Let God Lead – A Lesson From My Grandson

Let God Lead – A Lesson From My Grandson

My 12-year-old grandson Camden’s greatest vocational desire these days is to become a sports journalist. He’s developed his own sports blog, so I asked him if he’d like to guest blog for me sometime. He took me up on my offer, and in true ESPN style featured a sports figure in his message about following God’s plan.

Two of my favorite men!

To merely say I’m proud of him would be like calling Tiger Woods an average golfer. Camden excels in writing because his teacher/mom teaches him well. He loves God because his parents have shown him how to love. More importantly, he already understands that heartbreak is inevitable for all of us, but by following God’s plan, things have a way of working out for our good – eventually. This is a message that has inspired me to remember to let God handle all my struggles. I think it might inspire you too.

Even though Camden chose to write about an Alabama quarterback, he wanted me to make sure you know he is an Auburn fan. (That made me smile.) His choice of athlete makes me even prouder because he understands that even though folks may be from another tribe, we can all be united by the love of Jesus. Please don’t forget to show him some love in the comments. Thanks for traveling with us today. (If you’re curious about his blog, you can view it at www.camdenscove.blogspot.com.)

Let God Lead
by Camden Ellis

       This is the story of an incredible athlete who followed God’s plan even through the heartache. This is the story of Jalen Hurts. Despite all the pain, he let God take control. Jalen is an incredible example of someone who trusted God, and even though he went through great pain, everything turned out better than it was before. 

       Jalen Hurts, a 4-star quarterback prospect from Channelview, Texas, committed to Alabama and signed with the Tide as a freshman. Hurts’ future looked clear cut. He would be the starting quarterback for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide until he left for the NFL. “As a competitor, I wanted badly to be a part of the dynasty that Coach Saban was building. I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to leave a LEGACY.” That’s what Hurts said in a letter 3 years after he committed to Alabama. Sure enough, he was named the starting quarterback for Alabama in 2016. Hurts didn’t lose a game in the regular season. And it didn’t cease when he beat Florida in the SEC Championship and Washington in the College Football Playoff. Hurts battled for a title vs Clemson in January of 2017, but lost by a last second touchdown.

Hurts used that as motivation for the 2017 season. Again, Hurts went on an 11-game win streak. But then Auburn upset the Tide in the Iron Bowl. Jalen Hurts, along with everyone on the Alabama team, believed their season was done. But when the Tigers lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship heads started to turn. When the top 4 was released a week later, Alabama was announced the 4thspot in the rankings, meaning they’d secured a spot in the Playoffs. Alabama took down Clemson and again obtained a spot in the National Championship to face Georgia. Could this be Hurts’ time to shine? 

Jalen Hurts had a series of rough drives in the first half. As he trudged into the locker room down 13-0 at halftime, he knew he had to be better, but he didn’t know that he wouldn’t have a chance to. When Alabama took the field on offense, Hurts was still on the sideline. True freshman Tua Tagovailoa was the one to call the plays. Tagovailoa led the Tide back, forced overtime, and won the game with a touchdown pass. Hurts was all smiles despite the career-changing replacement. Now the world had seen Tua’s talent. Later in the offseason, rumors emerged about Hurts transferring. But God had a plan for Jalen, and Jalen had a choice of whether to allow God to take control or complain and transfer immediately. 

       Later in 2018, Tua was named the starting quarterback as expected. But Jalen Hurts stayed in Tuscaloosa. Coach Saban and Tua were putting up so many points by halftime of each game, Hurts got to play the rest of the game for about half of the season. Alabama went undefeated in the regular season and defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship. Tua was injured late in that game. Hurts got his shot and rushed for the eventual game-winning touchdown, keeping Alabama’s season alive. Tua recovered and beat Oklahoma before losing the National Championship to Clemson. Early in 2019, Hurts announced that he was transferring as expected. Eventually, he decided to transfer to Oklahoma where he would play as a starting quarterback. Indeed, God had a plan for Jalen, and Jalen let it follow through. 

       Jalen Hurts followed God’s plan though the pain. Jalen went through very tough things when he was replaced as the starting quarterback. His pride was hurt and his professional sports career was in danger. But despite that, he supported Tua and the rest of his teammates, didn’t complain about the situation, and most importantly, trusted God’s plan. And now, Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback at Oklahoma.

Even though Jalen went through tough heartache, he trusted God’s plan for him and now, he’s in a great situation as he’s in excellent position to win the Heisman Trophy and compete for the National Championship as well as being projected as a first-round draft choice in 2020. If you follow God’s way instead of your way, it’s true you may go through very tough heartache. But ultimately, it will turn out better than before. God’s way is the best way. God knows everything there is to know, and he loves every person in the world. You see, God’s way is always the best way. His plan is the best plan. If you follow His way, it will turn out a thousand times better. Jalen Hurts is one of many people who followed God’s way despite unimaginable heartache.

Hurts said this in a letter to the world describing exactly what he went through and how it turned out great:

“It’s been almost four years, now, since the day I got the phone call that changed my life. A coach by the name of Nick Saban was on the line, wanting to ask about the chances of a Texas boy like me packing up for Tuscaloosa, and coming to play football at the University of Alabama.

I took my recruiting visit — and then never took another. It was just love at first sight between me and this program.

And it’s crazy to think about the journeys we’ve both been on since then.

As a competitor, I wanted badly to be a part of the dynasty that Coach Saban was building. I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to leave a LEGACY.

Was what happened in the 2018 National Championship Game bittersweet? Of course it was — it was a humbling experience. It was tough, man.

But I am even tougher for it. I AM BUILT FOR THIS.

I understand that God put those obstacles and challenges in my life for a reason. He wanted me to feel the pain I felt for a reason. He wanted me to understand the importance of never losing faith — and of always staying true to myself. He had NOT brought me this far just to leave me there.

“This isn’t something you’re stuck in,” I’d tell myself. “This is something you’re going through.” And one thing I can promise you is that I’m better off for having gone through it. Everything I dealt with: I’m stronger for it. I’m wiser. I’m a better man.”

“Follow the whole instruction the Lord our God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”
Deuteronomy 5:33

Depression’s Healing Process

Depression’s Healing Process

Depression’s healing process reminds me of a scene from C. S. Lewis’ novel Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Due to his many issues, Eustace (the cousin of Narnia’s explorers, Lucy, Peter, and Edmund) morphs into a dragon, complete with layers of tough, knobby skin covered with scales. When the lion Aslan (the God figure in the story) shows up, Eustace expresses his dismay and desire to finally shed his dragon exterior. Aslan fulfills this desire.

Read how Eustace described that process to his cousin Edmund:

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke –‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So, I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy — oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

–From “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” C.S. Lewis

For emotions to truly heal, often times it takes returning to our most painful events and submitting to the Holy Spirit’s scalpel. Only then can we discover why all of our thick, knobly-looking coping mechanisms we’ve spent a lifetime forming have suddenly stopped working. Submitting to that process takes humility, courage, and a great deal of time.

I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but for me depression was Satan’s way of throwing a wrench in my sanctification process. God wants all of us to grow and mature into becoming more like Jesus. However, Satan orders up events that attempt to snatch us off that path. He wants us to doubt God’s ability to use those events for our good. If we’re not onto his game, Satan can encourage us to believe we aren’t good enough to be members of God’s family. He tempts us to think the people we love would be much better off without us. He turns us into rule followers so we don’t see the need for a relationship with Jesus. He enjoys watching us wear busyness as a badge of honor that masks how easily tempted we are when we’re tired and sleep-deprived. He makes us believe we can do things on our own. He isolates us so he can swoop in for the kill. Without realizing it, we try adding good stuff to our lives without ever getting rid of the bad. Before we know it, we’re so bloated that even the good stuff begins to stink.

If you’re in the middle of depression right now, get help. Don’t try to cope on your own. You think you’re strong enough, but you’re not. You need people. You need people who will point you back to God and His purpose for you. You need a Christian counselor to help you go back through your pain so you can see it in a different light. You need people who will enter into your hurt, love you no matter what, and hold you up when you can’t take one more step.

Be patient and intentional through your healing process. Trust me, it doesn’t happen overnight. Along the way, celebrate your progress. Look for reasons to brag on God, and you’ll soon begin to recognize His hand even in the smallest things. He will lead you out of the pit you’re in so that others will see and fear and put their trust in the Him. (Ps. 40:3)

On the other hand, perhaps you don’t understand depression because you’ve never been through it, but you love someone who has courageously laid down their heart in front of you and confessed their weaknesses. If so, then do what my husband and friends have done. Pray. Listen. Ask questions. Encourage. Point them to helpful resources. Remind them of God’s promises. See them as someone who has just undergone open-heart surgery. They can’t run at their usual pace without having a setback or two. Like physical stitches, it takes time for emotional stitches to heal. Don’t take their offenses personally. Share your past struggles so they won’t feel like they’re the only one. Point out the progress they’re making. Join forces with other friends in their life. This is one time they need you to be in cahoots on their behalf. Be available and be patient. And don’t be afraid to offer a proper hug if that’s their thing. 

Depression is spiritual warfare at its ugliest, but it doesn’t have to define anyone. All of us could use a little undressing by God. All of us have layers of coping mechanisms the Holy Spirit is more than capable of cutting away. Wouldn’t it be nice to see an ocean full of God’s tender children swimming and splashing with dragon skins of depression, doubt, fear, and anxiety lying all around? You don’t have to wait for eternity – just lie down.

See more on this topic today at www.leanintojesus.com

Hope this gets on repeat in your ears this week.
Stuck in a Rut?

Stuck in a Rut?

Most times, sisters are born to the same parents. Sometimes, they are blended into the same family. But on special occasions, God puts two girls together as friends who grow into becoming sisters for a lifetime. Kim King is that kind of sister to me. The transformation God has done in her life has blessed my family and me in countless ways. I am honored to give you a glimpse into her heart today by having her guest blog. Show her some love by reading her story, and get ready to be blessed.

It was early afternoon and the most perfect day smack dab in the middle of April.  Spring’s green grass had made its debut along with yellow wild flowers, budding flowery trees, and pink knock-out roses by the dozens. The wind was just brisk enough to boost my walk down the driveway to more than just a casual pace and cause ripples in the trio of ponds on the farm’s vast acreage.  The only sounds were those of the birds chirping sweet pleasantries, the cows’ mooing hallelujahs, and the horses chomping on the grass that fed their bellies.  Looking out over the mountain from atop God’s country, I could look down into the valley for miles and see the beautiful lake. Against the bluest of blue sky, the sun was shining down brightly while in the other direction the moon stood out oh so beautifully!

What brought me here was the thought that had been running through my mind for many months, “If I could only get away for a moment in time, just time away from all the noise, the busyness, the schedules, the mundane routine … the stuff.” I was thinking just me, by myself!  This thought had rattled my brain so many times over the past several months, but I continued to keep it to myself.  I thought it was very selfish to only think of me.

Eventually, the words starting verbally creeping out to my husband.  I mentioned it way more than once.  Then, I mentioned it to a dear friend.  I knew I had a week of vacation on the horizon and all I could think about was getting away … for just simply a day.  Before I knew it, my friend asked, “You want peace and quiet?  Why don’t you go stay at the farm?  Nobody will bother you there.  And you can stay as long as you like.”  I was all over that opportunity in a heartbeat!

I had been to the farm several times, but never by myself and not for an overnight stay.  I was eager to get away, and just let me say, this is not your ordinary Old McDonald farm with a barn.  The barn has living quarters for humans that a farm animal has never stepped foot in! It has a full kitchen and home entertainment center.  It even has a shower, which was a relief to my less-than-over-night camping style. Hey, there was even a heated pool with a pool house!  I was staying in complete comfort at the Hilton Barn Lodge.  Upon my arrival, I entered through the gate.  As I slowly drove the half-mile drive up toward the barn, I observed the multitude of cows to my left and gazed at the beautiful horses in the pasture to my right.  At the end of the paved drive, I parked my car behind the barn.  I grabbed my bags, went inside and up the stairs to my room to settle in for my overnight stay.  

After scoping out my rustic, cozy room and putting my things in place, I quickly made myself at home.  First things first, I made a fresh cup of hot coffee, snatched a book, and scurried straight for the wooden swing overlooking the grand countryside.  After a couple of chapters in my book and the last sip of caffeine, it was time to take the first of what would be many treks up and down the windy driveway path between the green pastures of cows and horses. 

As I began to traipse down the first leg, I immediately started talking to God.  I asked the Spirit to point out to me why I was there, at this particular place, and in this designated time.  As I walked down the first hill, I looked out over the mountains.  Then I glanced at the cows that mooed as I passed them by, and then over to the horses as they leisurely ate the grass.  They paid me no attention.  My head was moving back and forth as if I were watching a ping-pong match.  I was all in to this peaceful setting.  

As I got to the foot of the first hill, I “happened” to look down and noticed a turtle stuck in the fence.  I slowly went on past, but just a few steps later I came to a screeching halt. I turned around to see if I could help him out, maybe give him a little nudge.  I looked around for a stick of some sort. I was sure I wasn’t going to put my foot up to give him a nudge (I’m just sayin’).  I wasn’t able to find one close by.  At this point, I wasn’t sure if he was alive or not.  I went on my merry little way thinking I might find a stick on up the way.  And low and behold I did.  On my way back, I tried giving Mr. Turtle a nudge, but he didn’t budge.  It was at this point, the confirmation set in. He wasn’t alive.  So, I left him and continued on my walk. 

For the next few minutes, all I could think about was the turtle and how if he’d had someone to give him just a slight nudge, he could have been set free.  In that moment, I began to realize the Spirit was nudging me to see how I’d been stuck in a rut.  

For some time now, I had been letting the things of this world dictate my actions (or lack thereof) and my attitude.  Things of this life had a hold on me and were consuming me.  I was not taking time to breathe, but doing what I “had to do” and there was no time left to enjoy the simple things of life.  That afternoon I was able to stop and smell the roses (literally).  I took notice of the leaves as the wind rustled through them and rippled the ponds as I passed.  Rarely had I taken time to notice the moon in the middle of the afternoon.  I pulled a dandelion or two and blew on them which brought back sweet childhood memories of days gone by.  I even pulled a few of the yellow wild flowers that were growing along the fence and made a flowery bouquet.  I walked and I walked and I walked.  I leisurely swung in the swing and just took time to bask in the beauty of God’s creation.  At dusk, I pulled up the two rocking chairs that were made available underneath the overhang of the barn.  One for God and one for me. Coincidence there were two?  I think not.  We rocked, watched the gorgeous sunset, and talked.  Did He speak to me audibly? No. He spoke to me through His beautiful sunset.  I had a couple of things that had been weighing heavy on my heart for several months, and through this time away, His peaceful sunset, and the stillness of the moment, He assured me He has everything under control.  

Afterward, I went upstairs with no interest at all in catching up on social media or emails.  I entered my comfy cubby hole and took advantage of the quietness by just glaring into God’s Word.  I had a peaceful night’s rest, woke up early, and merely sat still in His presence for a couple of hours reading over His promises.  After enjoying a good ol’ cup of coffee, I was ready for a morning walk. This time, my mentality had changed. It was all about the thankfulness of the overabundance of blessings He has poured over me.  In this new day, the stuck-in-a-rut mentality had given way to peace for the days to come.

During this walk, I could only thank God for how richly He’d blessed my life.  How could I mope and complain about anything?   It took “getting away” in a peaceful setting and being completely alone with God for me to finally open up enough to realize my stuck-in-a-rut mindset. Only then could I surrender control of my future to Him.

As I walked in the freshness of this early morning, I was reminded that His mercies are new every day, Numbers 6:24-26 immediately came to mind …

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”

I thought about how God had blessed me and protected me through my friends. He allowed them to share in the blessings He had given them to bless me.  They protected me through the security measures they had put in place there on the farm. And it reminded me of how He blesses me and protects me every day. God smiled on me and was gracious to me through their kindness and generosity. He continuously smiles on me and is gracious to me in every area of my life.  God showed me His favor and truly gave me a peace about the upcoming changes that are on the horizon for my life.

What about you? Do you feel like you are so stuck in the middle of life’s distractions that you don’t take time to pay attention to the nudging of the Spirit in certain situations? Maybe it’s time to be still in God and climb out of your rut.

See the Trash

See the Trash

Just last week, two friends invited me to join them on their morning walk. I love them both, so it was an easy yes. Little did I know I was about to discover an important metaphor for life.

As we walked along, I noticed that one or the other of them would suddenly stop and then scurry to catch up. They explained that they always pick up trash while they’re walking and then deposit it into the nearest trash can. It seemed to be understood that if I walked with them I’d be expected to do the same thing. I didn’t notice the trash as fast as they did. They had trained their eyes to spot it quickly, and they pounced on it like kittens on a jiggling string. One of them laughed and said, “If you’re going to walk with us, you’re going to have to pick it up too.” I shot back, “Well, I’ve got to see it before I can pick it up!” We all laughed, and I added, “You know there’s a blog in there somewhere!”  

Indeed, there was! The more I think about it, the more I realize how difficult it is to get rid of our emotional trash unless we first see it. Sometimes, it takes a good friend or two or three to point out the things that litter our thoughts and actions. Our reaction to their insight can either help or hinder our healing process.

Take David for instance. It wasn’t until the prophet Nathan confronted David that he finally saw his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah as sin against the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) Once David saw the trash in his heart for what it was, he repented and threw it out. Speculate for just a moment what the rest of history might have looked like had David not acknowledged his mistakes and made them right.

And what about Naaman? (2 Kings 5:11-14) As army commander for the king of Aram, Naaman held a prestigious position. However, no glorified position could protect him from the skin disease he had contracted. After hearing that Elisha the man of God had come to Samaria, Naaman went to him for healing. Yet, when Elisha merely sent a message containing simple healing instructions rather than coming in person, Naaman got angry. Not only was Naaman offended that Elisha didn’t take time to see him face to face, but he also thought dipping seven times in the muddy Jordan River was beneath someone of his position. It took a servant unwrapping Naaman’s trashy pride to help him get a good whiff of the stink he wore. Realizing his mistake, Naaman tossed away his pride and was healed.

Jumping to the New Testament (John 18:17-27), we see what stinky trash even the great apostle Peter unknowingly possessed. Peter didn’t need a human reprimand to realize his transgression against Jesus. God used the crowing of a rooster to highlight the stench of fear causing him to deny the Lord. Later in Galatians 2, we read of Peter receiving a reprimand from Paul for being a foul-smelling hypocrite. Imagine how diluted Peter’s gospel message would have been had he not realized and accepted his need to clean up his heart and attitude.

What kind of trash are you holding onto? We all have a little scrap or two tucked away in a pocket. Some of it we created for ourselves, and some was dumped on top of us by someone else. Who will come alongside you and do their best to help you throw it away? Your spouse? A parent? A friend? A small group? Maybe a counselor? Who will you come alongside?

We are all on this journey together. Imagine walking with those who lovingly point out the trash you might not see so that you can pick it up. Imagine being able to help a friend pick up their trash so that each of you can throw yours into the nearest trash can. When we do that, we’ll all feel a whole lot lighter, and the world will smell a whole lot better.

Guard Your Heart?

Guard Your Heart?

Before leaving for Ireland I’d been focused on Solomon’s admonition in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It was that “guard your heart” part that struck a nerve. Whenever I feel pressure in my spirit, I know I’m supposed to let it linger until I see what God’s trying to show me. The deeper the truth He’s trying to reveal, the longer the process. Oh, how I’ve learned the hard way to embrace this grueling process I once hated! I still don’t like this kind of lingering, but I do love the end product.

Unfortunately for all of us, life occasionally hurls some pretty large stones at our hearts. Some bruise. Some cut. But every now and then, life bows up and hoists a boulder gigantic enough to break our hearts and crush our spirits into dust. Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of that blow or feel like the one who had to deliver it, you’re left with a heart barely able to squirt.

That’s where Ireland’s many castles entered into my learning process. We visited three of the most famous ones: Kilkenny, Blarney, and Bunratty. Though each displayed unique characteristics, there were still many similarities that taught me a great deal about guarding my heart. 

Bunratty Castle Drawbridge Cavity

Castle moats, though not there now, once upon a time encircled the castles to keep the enemy at a distance. It’s hard to tunnel under a castle surrounded by water! Having a moat surround a hilltop castle with its raised drawbridge gave castle-dwellers a bird’s eye view of their enemies’ formations.

Castle walls were built high enough to keep enemies out, and some we saw had walls six feet thick. When it comes to our hearts’ protective walls, Satan will use whatever catapult, flaming arrow, or battering ram he chooses to help him break through. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.

Castles originally had long narrow windows with slanted sides so that archers could have a wider range to aim their arrows without leaving themselves exposed to the enemy. Easy to shoot, but hard to get shot! Satan’s aim is calculated, but never true. He doesn’t have what it takes to keep hitting the marks on our hearts when we narrow our window of opportunity.

Blarney Castle

As Christians, we strive to keep our walls high against Satan’s attacks by paying attention to the music, movies, substances, and bad company we choose. However, we should be just as intentional about letting down our drawbridges with one another. In the days of kings, queens, ladies, and lords, drawbridges were lowered during peaceful days for great times of feasting, dancing, and entertainment. 

Kilkenny Castle

Perhaps, by now, you’ve joined me in being a bit confused about the “guard your heart” part of Solomon’s words. Because of your pain, you’ve been guarding your heart by resisting the faithful love of those who would like nothing better than to gain access into your heart and help you turn that hurt and fear into dust. Becoming more transparent scares the living daylights out of you. Hopefully, by now you see that guarding your heart means protecting your heart from Satan’s arsenal. Please don’t let him convince you to build a high wall of hurt or fear and miss God’s blessings.

Perhaps, like me, you may still have some emotions on the mend. There may be some relationships you have to let go for a season and pray God brings them back again when you can be a much better friend. In the meantime, I’m thankful God has worked overtime to bless me with some folks who allow me to readily drop my drawbridge. They meet me where I am and show me that I matter.

I’m sure the desire of my heart is no different from yours. I want to make a difference for the kingdom. Neither of us can do that effectively until our hearts are courageous enough to drop our defenses and allow helpful friends in to join us at our banquet tables. 

Thankfully, Jesus leads the parade into my heart daily. He surrounds me with Living Water so that no weapon formed against me will stand. (Isaiah 54:7) Best of all, I know that I know that I know:

The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.(Psalm 62:2)

He will be your mighty fortress too.

Now, go pour some water into your moat, and take a friend swimming!

Hello-o-o

Hello-o-o

This week, I’m honored to post this blog on the Lean into Jesus website. I’d love for you to click on www.leanintojesus.com to learn more about this ministry and subscribe to their weekly blogs. Getting to know the many amazing women of God who comprise this ministry blesses my soul. They will bless yours too. 

The hotel reserved for us at the very end of our tour of Ireland added the final layer to our vacation cake and iced it perfectly. We felt a bit like the Clampets traipsing into such 5-star luxury. (Jethro and Ellie Mae of course! Not Jed and Granny. Just so we’re clear. 🙂 )

After a quick bite of lunch, I decided to go back to our room while Ron paid the check. Yes, I did get on the wrong elevator first, but getting lost doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve gotten used to it. Now, I just choose to see it as an adventure.

Locating the correct elevator to take me to the right floor, I confidently pushed the button, and away I went. The 5-star elevator stopped silently without the slightest jolt. I waited for the doors to quietly open, and I waited … and waited … and waited.

Choosing to see this as an adventure, I tried to ignore that split-second thought of being trapped in an elevator and reducing to a skeleton while waiting to be rescued. My eyes scanned the digital display. Yes, I was on the right floor, but the doors wouldn’t open! 

About that time, I heard a voice. It was an audible voice. I didn’t believe it was the Holy Spirit since He’s never really spoken to me quite like that. The voice timidly said, “Hello-o-o”. It was one of those sing-songy hellos people use when you’re doing something embarrassing, but haven’t realized it yet. My eyes widened as I turned completely around to see a little hotel employee with a cart standing on the other side of the doors that had opened behind me. Who knew there were two sets of doors! I’d been standing there staring at the closed doors while the way to freedom opened behind me. I smiled at the little fella, squeezed past his cart, and laughed out loud all the way to the room. When I walked in, Ron was there waiting. He knew me well enough to know that I’d gotten lost and would eventually find my way back.

After thinking about this episode, I realized what a perfect analogy it is for the way my life has been. Perhaps, it epitomizes your life too. We were born into a 5-star world created by God. Every turn continually offers wonders to behold.

Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher

Since I was born a daughter of Eve, I too had the desire to be godly, but found myself choosing religion rather than a relationship. I stepped into the box of religion hoping I could push all the right buttons to get me precisely where I wanted to go. However, no matter how hard I stared at those doors, I couldn’t escape the thought that I hadn’t done enough or been good enough to earn God’s favor. So, I decided to settle down in that religious box. I decorated it fervently with snapshots of good deeds, memorized verses, retreats, conferences, and Sunday school classes. Little did I know that with every snapshot Someone had always stood behind me whispering, “Hello-o-o”.

One day, I heard that sweet voice of Jesus and realized He didn’t want my religious outsides; he wanted to be my friend on the inside. Through a relationship with Him, good deeds and acts of kindness began to flow naturally and most often flowed to unexpected places most certainly not charted out by me! When I finally paid full attention, I realized He’d always been standing there with a cart full of blessings. I only needed to turn around and see Him!

Jesus’ words to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation 3 ring true for us as well:

“See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Sunday is Easter. We celebrate the day Jesus walked out of His tomb and proclaimed freedom for each one of us. If you already have a relationship with Jesus, let Him help you focus on invigorating your relationships with your family and friends. It’s never a bad time to take His elevator to a brand-new level.

If you don’t yet know Jesus as your very best friend, what better day than Easter to listen to His voice, turn your life around, abandon your own path, and let Him lead you to a cartful of blessings too wonderful to imagine? God knows and loves you well. He sits patiently, waiting in the room He’s prepared for you. When your heart hears Jesus quietly say “Hello-o-o”, you just might laugh out loud all the way to your room.

 

The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road

What Friends Want – Part 3

What Friends Want – Part 3

I’ve been praying that our fresh look at Paul and Timothy’s friendship would strengthen our desire to become better friends. Like Paul, who understood the brevity of his life on earth, we also understand that our days are numbered, and if we want to make a difference here, we have to get a move on! We need friends to help us with that.

Paul knew Timothy needed encouragement, instruction, and most of all, a friend whose motivation would help him spread the gospel message to anyone who would listen. Who in your world needs you to believe in them that powerfully? Are you willing to do the hard work of friendship? 

I’ve been blessed recently with the friendship of a young woman who gave up her time to create this review of What Friends Want: Part 1 & Part 2:

Today, let’s finish studying how Paul befriended Timothy by identifying the last four of our ten traits that all friends surely want:

7. ENCOURAGEMENT TO FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE

“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching … Exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 5)

Whether we like it or not, people who take the time to look closely into our hearts can see things in us that escape our notice. Sometimes, it’s our strengths that are easily spotted standing tall against our life’s backdrop. Other times, our weaknesses shoot flares into the night sky for all to see. For most of us, it’s easier to see our shortcomings than to appreciate our gifts. Perhaps, one of the best things you can do for a friend is to help them discover their purpose. We all need friends who will remind us of our calling, push us to take that next big step, and encourage us when the going gets rough. 

8. TRANSPARENCY

“At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

Paul had already been transparent with Timothy in his first letter when he described himself as a former blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man who was the worst of all sinners. Here in the second letter, we get a glimpse of the loneliness and rejection Paul felt when his friends deserted him. Only someone like Paul could effectively minister to a young man going through similar struggles. 

Left to our own descriptions, our lives are woven with colorful and beautifully placed threads designed with great artistic flair. On one side, a beautiful face forms and gets displayed for all the world to see. The bright, twinkling eyes of our tapestry shine just above brilliant smiles with sparkling teeth. I don’t know about you, but in my 60+ years I’ve seen enough phony baloney to last me a lifetime. What I want in a friend is to see the messy, knotty threads on the backside. Only then can messy relationships get real! Our purpose in friendship is to look at the knotted threads, find the similarities, and together untangle them one by one. The friendship journey unties as many knots as possible and then revels in having them flap freely in the breeze. Friendship isn’t about creating a beautiful facade; it’s about giving us the freedom to become who God intended us to be.  

9. TIME

Make every effort to come to me soon … When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments … Make every effort to come before winter.” (2 Timothy 9; 13; 21)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this study of friendship it’s this: We give best what we need most, and giving takes time. It really doesn’t matter what your love language is. They all take time. It takes time to be together to exchange a warm embrace or a touch of the hand. Gifts bought take time not only in the purchasing, but also in finding out the wants and needs of another. Serving takes time. Speaking, texting, or emailing words of affirmation takes time. 

Paul wanted some of Timothy’s time – one of the most valuable and precious things Timothy possessed. Look at the boldface words again in the Scripture above. I’m certain Paul realized the demands placed on young Timothy, but Paul knew his time was short. He wanted to see Timothy one last time.

In this season of my life, my schedule is busy, but not hectic like it used to be. I have to keep in mind that not everyone can say that. While I enjoy big chunks of time spent with friends, I’ve come to realize that I love some of my friends best by only requiring a spoonful of their time. If a text is all they have time for, I don’t mind one of mine lingering in their phones until they have an opportunity to see it. But, believe me! It’s taken some time to reach that point. Now I see that everyone’s time is precious and every drop given should be appreciated.

10. PRAYERS AND BLESSING

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.” (2 Timothy 4:22)

Paul knew the very best friend Timothy could ever have was Jesus. He knew Jesus would be able to AFFIRM him with GENTLE WORDS. Even if everyone else denied friendship with Timothy, Jesus would remain LOYAL because Jesus is a friend who stays – no matter what! Having the Lord with his spirit would impart WISDOM. Timothy could have no better EXAMPLE offered to him than that of Jesus. He would REMIND Timothy of His love, ENCOURAGE HIM TO FULFILL HIS PURPOSE, and gives him confidence to become completely TRANSPARENT. TIME spent with Jesus would engulf Timothy with peace when he felt lonely and rejected. And because Paul knew these things first hand, he PRAYED for Timothy to develop a friendship with Jesus.

The sweeter our friendship with Jesus develops, the more satisfying our friendships become.

I’m praying now that you and your friends feel the presence of the Lord so strongly that you find grace to untangle your tapestry’s threads just longing to dance in the wind.

Waiting on the Inexpressible

Waiting on the Inexpressible

In my life’s photo album, the word inexpressible lies pasted just above many snapshots containing emotions too strong to be described in words. A few are too hurtful to attach words, but most are inexpressibly joyful. Here are some examples you might relate to:

  • Only someone who has finally gotten the job she’s spent a lifetime working toward truly understands the inexpressible feeling of sitting in her new chair in her new position for the very first time.
  • Unless you are a husband and wife who’s been married for decades, it is impossible to fathom all the emotion behind years of intense moments of intimacy.
  • Only another mother can fully comprehend the feeling of having her own little bundle of squirming, screaming preciousness handed to her for the very first time.
  • Surely, all of us can appreciate the difficulty in describing scenes of natural beauty that take our breaths away. Magnificent glaciers. Artistic sunrises. Thundering oceans. Snow-capped mountains. Valleys of blooming wildflowers. Honey bees. Butterflies. Hummingbirds. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Oh my!

Yes, God is in the awe-inspiring business! He delights in delighting us and leaving us speechless. Take a moment to ponder those inexpressible moments and see if you can identify the common ingredient.

  • It takes many years to secure that new benchmark position on which a heart’s been set.
  • They don’t call childbirth labor for nothing – it culminates a 9-month process. 
  • Intense physical (and spiritual) intimacy in marriage comes when you’ve taken the time to learn the desires of your spouse’s … well, heart. 🙂
  • And many times, it takes a lengthy expedition to experience God’s most inspiring natural wonders. 

When we place all of our inexpressible moments into a pot and boil them down, we’re left with the fundamental ingredient of time. It takes time for inexpressible things to happen.

Just ask Peter.

When Jesus called him, he was no more than a mere unschooled, ordinary fisherman who became intrigued by the words, miracles, wisdom, and love of Jesus. However, as opposition against Jesus grew, Peter denied even knowing Jesus and thus failed to demonstrate His love for God. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he failed to love others and cut off a soldier’s ear with his sword. But, when Peter finally looked into the eyes of the risen Savior, he found the forgiveness, mercy, grace, and compassion of a true and loyal friend.

Eventually, Peter became fully convicted of his own inability to be good enough to follow Jesus’ commands of loving God and others. He needed the the Holy Spirit to teach him how to love. His journey took time, but it led him straight into the lap of inexpressible joy. 

Hear what Peter had to say to his fellow believers: 

“Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

(1 Peter 1:8-9)

I never denied knowing Jesus verbally, but sadly my past actions proved that I only knew Him to be the most important person in the Bible. I didn’t know Him as my most important friend who actually enjoys spending time with me! It took time to form a mental picture of Him – one that I rely on to help me experience His friendship. Thankfully, God blessed me with enough time to create an intimate relationship with Jesus that can only be truly understood by those who have experienced it. Every day with Him is an adventure. Now, I can’t wait to see the new ways He chooses to leave me speechless!

It’s often said that if you want what someone else has, you need to be willing to do what they did to get it. Are you willing do what Peter did?

Are you willing to let God love you no matter what you’ve done?

Are you willing to be broken enough to let your pain out?

Are you willing to learn how to love?

Are you willing to read the love letter God sent you and cherish every word, believe every promise, accept every good thing He says about you, and believe He loves you with all His heart?

If you are willing, He is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine! Let Him fill you with inexpressible joy! Oh, what a feeling!

When You Love Someone

When You Love Someone

If you’ve walked in to most any kind of store the last few weeks, you’ve no doubt been met with displays of heart-shaped candy boxes, red and white bunches of flowers, and little silhouettes of naked cherubs poised to fling an arrow. Let’s face it, lives get hectic, and it’s good to be reminded that we should take the time to find ways of expressing our love to everyone we hold dear.

Last year, I set out on a quest for two specific things: 1) to learn how to properly love people, and 2) to find the path to true joy. God has always blessed me, but most recently His blessings have exceeded far beyond anything I deserve or could have ever imagined. It took stillness and quiet to hear Jesus speak words of love to my weary and restless spirit. It took a willingness to allow God to open my eyes to the many ways He demonstrates His love day after day after day.

Thankfully, God began to reveal thousands of small, previously overlooked Valentines of love He constantly delivers through my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends. He’s taught them all how to love me incredibly well. Those acts of loving kindness have in turn created a profound thankfulness which saturated my heart with an inexpressible joy. By loving me, they’ve taught me how to love.

Jason Mraz sings a song simply called “Love Someone” which perfectly states what I’ve recently discovered on the path God’s laid out for me.

“Love is a funny thing. Whenever I give it, it comes back to me. And it’s wonderful to be giving with my whole heart as my heart receives.”

I wasn’t sure about sharing that song with you, but once I saw the video I knew that it would transcend not only husband/wife relationships, but friendships as well. When we take care of others we become blessed beyond all measure. 

Love Someone by Jason Mraz

God has loved us incredibly well, so why not transmit that love to someone today? Buy a card, send a text, make a phone call. Better yet, sit across the table from someone you love. It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to love someone incredibly well. Jesus does it every day!

Oh, and by the way, thank you for loving me! I love you even more!

The Most Perfect Way

I’m stepping to the far side of my comfort zone today with a video blog. Don’t worry! I’ll be tapping computer keys again next week. Just thought I’d introduce myself to our new travelers. Thank you all for moseying along with me this year.

Ever wondered where the name Perfection Road came from? Well …

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You? Part 3

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You? Part 3

Last week we visited the story of the lost son who eventually returned home to the welcoming arms of his father. The son’s heart had traveled far off to pursue selfish pleasures long before his feet ever took the first steps. Because of the son’s unwillingness to show honor and respect, his father did not chase him. However, once he returned and sin was confessed, grace opened the floodgates of mercy and great blessings. True Love doesn’t chase the sinful; it beckons them home.

Today, I’d like you to step with me into another story. One that I have wrestled with for months in hopes of shedding some light on the motives of those who, either knowingly or unknowingly, isolate themselves from Love. It’s also my hope to inspire those of you who keep the doors of your hearts bolted and locked to courageously fling them open so Love can come in to soothe your hurt.

John 11 stands tall in proclaiming the resurrection power of Jesus through the body of His friend Lazarus. We first meet Lazarus’ two sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10. There, Martha represents the mindset of those following the Law and its compulsion for good works. Mary, on the other hand, represents the importance of a spiritual relationship with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, Jesus declares which of these is most important. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

After reading John 11 in at least 20 different versions and praying for the Holy Spirit to show me why He kept sending me back to this chapter, I finally saw it. It may merely be a woman thing. I don’t know. But, I’d like you to hear me out.

Of the three siblings in this story, Lazarus always holds the top billing in the storyline. After all, a man raised from the dead continues to raise the eyebrows of even the harshest critic. But I’d like to contend that Lazarus’ sister Mary should linger in the spotlight for a moment or two longer. 

In Luke 10, Mary sat in the glowing presence of the Light of the World, hanging on every word. John makes it a point to tell us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary and considered them friends. But then, after Mary and Martha sent word to this dear friend saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick,” Jesus didn’t come right away. He stayed put until Lazarus had been dead four days so that the glory of God would be displayed in an undeniable way. Mary and Martha, however, were not privy to this important tidbit of explanation, and Mary soon found herself in a dark place.

The friendship between Mary and Jesus had no doubt formed through deep conversation, shared meals, and many words of affirmation for one another. Mary trusted Jesus with her heart. But there in the darkness of overwhelming grief, her trust was tested. We get a glimpse of Mary’s hurt heart when the sisters finally received word that Jesus had indeed come. Martha went out to meet Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Hurt hearts sit.

Perhaps, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe that Mary might have begun to doubt the love of Jesus. Just maybe, she allowed these kinds of negative thoughts to creep into her thinking: “If He really loved me He would have come right away. Doesn’t He care?” or “After all the love I’ve shown Him, you’d think He could at least show up”, or “Why did He say He loved me if He didn’t mean it?” or just maybe Mary climbed up on her high horse and thought, “If He had been the one hurting, I would have shown up!” Hurt hearts criticize.

Oh, how these have been my thoughts at least a thousand times toward almost as many people. I really hate admitting that, but I want those of you going through a tough time to rise above the negative thoughts. You are worth the time! People really do love you, but sometimes they just don’t realize how important they are! Tell them. Ask for their help. Yes, there may be those who disappoint you, but look around your life at all the ones who show up for you. Thank them, and love them incredibly well. Above all, please know that God loves you no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done!

If you know someone going through a rough time, go to them! Help them experience the love of Jesus by telling them what they mean to Him and to you. Look into their hurt. Spend time with them. Listen. Hold them when they cry. Laugh with them when they can laugh. Just be there! By doing this, you represent the love of Jesus very well. True Love doesn’t ignore the hurting; it heals them.

As for Mary, the sweet results of her mended heart soon filled the air at Lazarus’ resurrection party. In the presence of Jesus she not only found her worth, but also a joy that was gloriously inexpressible, and gratitude that was completely uncontainable. 

And so did I!

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You?  Part 2

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You? Part 2

I asked my son Jarrod’s permission to share a page out of his life’s book if I promised to protect his identity. He never hesitated in declaring, “I don’t mind you using my name!” He understands this page in his chapter on repentance was a pivotal moment not only in our relationship, but also in his spiritual development. His willingness to let me share it demonstrates the confidence he has in the grace he received.

If you have kids or have ever been one, you know the teen years naturally cause emotions to rise and fall quickly. The teetering toddler who once held a finger tightly, all too soon transforms into a teenager who secretly wants to slap that same hand as far as the east is from the west. Eventually and inevitably, tempers flare. Voices rise. Faces redden. And that’s just the mother! 🙂

However, on this particular day it was Jarrod who lost his cool. He let a man old enough to be his father get under his skin while playing golf, and he lost all control. He knew disrespect would not be tolerated by either his dad or me. He had also learned early on to confess quickly when he’d done something wrong. Being the son of a teacher who taught in his school helped him realize someone always stood ready to tattle. He also learned the hard way that things would go much better for him if he confessed before I heard it from an eager tattletale. But this time the news beat him home, and his mama was more than a little upset. 

I usually let his dad handle most of his heavy discipline because heaven knows it takes one to know one. This time, however, all my pushed buttons wore Jarrod’s fingerprints. It had been a hard season of teachable moments. When I finally saw him, I pounced on him like a hungry lion on its prey. He sputtered and fumed and announced he was going to leave. (Just between you and me, my heart broke, but I stood my ground.) I told him he could leave if he wanted to, and go as far as the measly sum in his checking account would take him. Out the door he went. This was not our finest hour.

Maybe this story reminds you of a parable Jesus told in Luke 15 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or The Lost Son. Like Jarrod, the young man in the story left home with the blessings his father provided in order to pursue his own way. The father didn’t chase him. The father stayed, worked his fields with one eye scanning the horizon, and he waited. I know how that father felt. 

To this day, I don’t know where Jarrod went or what he did, but I know what I did. I sat at the bottom of the stairs near the front door, praying, and waiting. I would still be praying and waiting if necessary, as I know some of you are with your children. I learned to trust God more that night.

The prodigal son stayed gone long enough to live a worldly lifestyle and exhaust his father’s money. Jarrod stayed away until the wee hours of the next morning. 

The prodigal’s situation in Luke 15 grew dire enough for him to long for home. He realized his pride had caused his desperation, and he ached to become a lowly servant in his father’s house. He practiced the speech he only had the chance to partially give. As soon as his father spotted him in the distance, he ran to him (something honorable Jewish men didn’t do) and embraced him. The once-lost son had changed his heart, returned home, and all was forgiven.

Jarrod never said whether or not he practiced his speech before FINALLY calling home. But it was effective. He knew he’d made a huge mistake and more than anything, he wanted to be back in his mom and dad’s good graces. There were consequences for his actions, but many blessings upon his return. The hug he received when he walked through the door became an object lesson in grace. He knew his repentance had been met with forgiveness even though he didn’t deserve it.

As members of Christ’s body, perhaps each of us could work toward creating more loving and forgiving environments, so that those who’ve chased sinful lifestyles will pay attention to being supernaturally drawn toward repentance and a loving church home – one that’s been watching, waiting, and praying for them. I am not saying we should dismiss the hurt they’ve caused or ignore sin. I am saying our attitude toward them makes all the difference in their desire to return. Jesus modeled our response with the woman caught in adultery when he said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.” 

Just imagine how you and I would bless the name of Jesus if we helped His church become known as a place of acceptance for those who might be practicing their homecoming speeches even now! 

However, if you’re one who’s been running toward your own desires and away from True Love, just know God waits for you. He’s ready and willing to cast your sins as far as the east is from the west. There will still be consequences, but He’s ready to wrap you in a robe of righteousness, establish a loving relationship with you, and prepare you to make a difference in this world. If you still feel the need to run, run home. Just know, the longer you’ve been running, the longer the return may be. Trust God every step of the way. Forgiveness is worth it!

In Jesus’ parable, God stayed and waited for the prodigal to return. Yet, next week in the gospel of John we will meet an obedient woman who lost her sense of worth and found herself separated from Jesus. For her, Jesus came.  

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You? Part 1

God Stayed. Jesus Came. What About You? Part 1

At Christmas, our pastor told a story that stuck with me like a bug on a sticky pad. I can’t shake it off my heart so I’m thinking I’m supposed to tell you the story.

A husband and wife began fighting so much that the wife, who battled depression and anxiety, fell into deep depression. Her negative emotions overwhelmed her so much that she finally packed a bag and left her husband and three children. 

The husband sent text after text, made phone call after phone call, but she never responded. He filed a missing person’s report, but nothing. Weeks went by, so the husband hired a private investigator to look for his wife. Soon, she was found in a less-than-desirable motel on the shady side of town. Immediately, the husband and children jumped into their van, high-tailed it to the motel, and knocked on the door of her room. When she opened the door and saw her family, she gathered her belongings without saying a word, packed her bag, and got into the van. All the way home no one said a word. After they got to the house, the kids went to their room, and the confused husband spoke first, “I’ve sent you hundreds of texts and made hundreds of phone calls that you never answered. Then, when we showed up at your door, you just packed your bag, and came with us. Why did you come so easily?”

At this point in the story, I leaned in to hear her response because I knew exactly how she felt. I know that feeling of deep depression. Maybe some of you do too. Some of you may wonder if your life really matters because Satan has increased his lies from mere whispers to shouts, reminding you of all the mistakes you’ve made. His you-will-never-be-good-enough-to-make-a-difference song is on repeat in your head. You believe those you love would be much better off without all your inner turmoil ruining their days. Satan has you twisted in so many knots that you believe the most loving thing you could do would be to go away. You wonder how God could ever love someone like you.

If you feel this way, lean in, and listen closely to what I learned this past year. God does indeed love you! You are His child, the apple of His eye, and He will never leave you. He sent His Son Jesus to pay the bill for all your sins. He sent His Holy Spirit to establish a loving, intimate relationship with you – one that Satan continually attempts to destroy. Jesus wants to become your best friend who talks with you for hours over meals, laughs at your jokes, dances to your music, cries when you hurt, and shows up every single time you invite Him into the scenes of your life’s movie.

Yes, you’ve made mistakes. Who hasn’t? Both you and I have purposely done things that do not honor God. Let’s confess them, and get on with life. People have hurt you. Forgive them. And just know this: there will be people who will never forgive you, but God always will when you ask, and He’s the one that counts. If people don’t love you, that’s their loss, but remain open to love. When others make light of you, maybe it’s because they don’t understand you. Kill their ridicule with kindness. If you feel rejected, there are godly people who will walk closely beside you. Go where they are!

All this was easy to type, but so very hard to learn. As my Daddy always says, “If it was easy everybody would be doing it.” It took an entire year to get to the bottom of my life’s memories I had managed to keep boxed and stored. However, God knew it would be for my benefit to rapid-fire an abundance of challenges toward me in order to completely empty me. He knew that only then could I survive and know beyond all doubt that the joy I now feel is ALL because of Him and ABSOULUTELY NOT because of anything I had done.

We can’t truly love anyone else until we grasp how much God loves us. God is love! He proved His love to me over and over by leading me step by step through a grueling, but glorious process of transformation. He will do the same for you. Now, I have just one question I’m feeling led to ask:

The Spirit kept reminding me of two stories in the gospels that I’d like for us to step into over the next two weeks. These two stories helped me understand how to take what I’d learned through an inward examination of myself and apply it to outwardly loving the people he’s placed in my path. It helped me be able to decide whether I should stay put whenever someone I love wants to run away or whether I should go after them. I hope you’ll join me and share your thoughts as we go.

So! I guess you’d like to know how the pastor’s story ended. Right? The wife’s honest response made my eyes first sting, then puddle, and finally spill over their brims because her response would have been mine too. The woman left home feeling depressed and useless. After her husband pursued her and brought her back home, he asked, “Why did you come home so easily?”

Her response?

“BECAUSE YOU CAME!”

Sweet friend, Jesus came for you too!

Special Edition

Special Edition

I rarely deviate from my usual posting on Tuesdays. However, this year’s Lean into Jesus Ministries Women’s Conference, TRUST GOD will encourage you as you walk in faith. I’d love to see you in Guntersville, Alabama on February 2nd!

God created you. He has redeemed you; you need not fear. He calls you by name; you are HIS! He will be with you when you walk through waters. He will protect you when you walk through fire. You are precious in His eyes and honored. He loves you. You can TRUST HIM. (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Tara Boyce, Maryann Hood, Jeri Lynn Daniel, and Charlene Miller will share powerful testimonies of God’s faithfulness.  

Lana Swartzlander, Kim Underwood King, Patti Smart League, Atlee Griffin, Wendy Griffin, Kristie Brothers, Shirley Chupp and Rosalie Hunt will share drama presentations of women who fully trusted in our mighty God.

First United Methodist Church Praise Team “Amplify” will lead worship. We will have special music by Tara Wilson Boyce, Elishaba Larson, Amanda Patterson, and Kristie Brothers. 

Lunch catered by Rock House Catering is included in the $25 ticket price. 

Simply click this link to purchase your tickets today: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trust-god-womens-conference-tickets-48516170171 

For more information about Lean Into Jesus Ministries click here: www.leanintojesus.com.


FINALLY! Happy New Year!

FINALLY! Happy New Year!

God has done, is doing, and will continue to do wonderful things even when some of those things might not seem so wonderful. During 2019, may each of us quickly recognize the mighty hand of God, trust in His perfect timing, and thank Him even more for the way He diligently works things out for our good.

Before we race into intentional joy next Tuesday, please take a few minutes to review how far down Perfection Road we’ve traveled in 2018. (Click the link on the picture if you’d like to read the post.)

Get ready for a very Happy New Year, friends!

What’s It All About?

What’s It All About?

Sunday holds the top spot on my list of favorite days. After a week’s worth of busy, Sunday smooths my ruffled feathers and fills me with hope for the next week. I hope it does that for you as well.

This past Sunday exceeded my greatest expectations. It wasn’t merely the worship that did the trick, though it did summon a few drops of emotion from my eyes. It wasn’t necessarily the inspiring message I heard, nor was it the oh-so-sweet sweet fellowship I’ve come to thrive on. No, it was the hearts of the children I’m blessed to serve that completely overwhelmed me.

My part of Sunday’s children’s service was to offer a short closing message and prayer, followed by some small group time with my amazing  4th  and  5th  grade boys. These particular assignments make Sunday extra special for me.

After watching a video lesson about being grateful with what we have during the Christmas season, I decided to reenact a scene from a movie that most of our kids are very familiar with. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, a frustrated Charlie cried out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus responded, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” as he stepped centerstage into the spotlight to beautifully quote Luke 2:8-14.  How wonderful it is to take the time to remember just how miraculous the birth of Jesus was!

As we moved into our prayer time together, we talked about the  prophet Isaiah’s description of Jesus, the Messiah who would come to earth as a baby to grow and live among us. I reminded them that Isaiah lived hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, but still knew that He would be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

The children seemed to understand that at some point we all need some wise advice, someone who will protect and take care of us, someone who will always be with us and never leave us, and someone who can give us peace in our crazy lives. Many prayed to have Jesus become their own Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

Small group time began by handing out prayer cards to my circle of boys along with these instructions, “Tell God which one of these four descriptions of Jesus you need most in your life right now, and why you need it.”

I wasn’t prepared for the depth of emotion that poured onto these cards.

One boy asked for a Wonderful Counselor because he needed a friend.

Another wanted a Mighty God because he was being bullied at school. What I read at the bottom of the card from this boy who wore the biggest smile in the room broke my heart. He wrote: Why do people bully me?

Another seemed desperate for an Everlasting Father because he never got to see his dad.

And another one wrote that he needed a Prince of Peace because it wasn’t very peaceful in his house right now.

It’s true, we feel our need for a Savior when we are children, and we never outgrow that need. Are there children in your life struggling quietly with stressful emotions? Take time to ask questions, and then listen.

I’m pretty sure some of you grownups reading this right now could also use a friend, a protector, some security, or a whole lot of peace; maybe all four. Don’t be afraid to let it show, and then intentionally lean on Jesus.

However, there may be a few of us who could be a little more like Jesus by supporting someone else through difficult days. Look around. Who needs you? By learning how to become more Christlike, we find exactly what we need.  

And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14, KJV, emphasis definitely mine)



You Weren’t Called To Do It All!

You Weren’t Called To Do It All!

Maybe feeling the pressure to meet every single need of everyone in our lives is a “firstborn” thing. Maybe it’s a “being a woman” thing. Or, maybe it’s a “pride” thing. Perhaps, it’s all three rolled up in a giant ball of mistletoe. (I’m thinking some sons and husbands might be reading this, so you can pay me later for the insight. 🙂 )

Especially during the holidays, many of us women feel the need to be in charge, to see that everything gets done, and gets done exceptionally well when we were never called to do it all. We want dinners to go off without a hitch as presents wrapped with artistic flair lie underneath our perfectly decorated tree. On the big day, we hope to display rested eyes that twinkle with excitement and gleaming smiles that sparkle. We long to create cherished memories that etch themselves into the minds of our children and grandchildren.

Several months ago, a very wise friend gave me some great advice I’d like to pass along to you. It translates to every demanding season of life – not just Christmas. As I sat wet-eyed in her office chair, I explained the reason for my emotional drain. A long-lost relative had suddenly and unexpectedly reappeared in my life only because he needed someone, anyone, to manage his life during his long hospital stay. He nominated me while I was in the throes of also managing my mom’s doctor visits, medication, bill paying, and her general activities of life. His unrelenting demands stretched my body and emotions as thin as frog hair split four ways. Resentment took hold as he repeatedly insisted that I meet his every whim. I fully admit to you that love was not what I felt for him.

My friend listened as I poured every ounce of my frustration into her lap. Then, she did what she does so well, she understood. She had been there, seen others go there, and offered these three suggestions:

When I spent some time thinking about each of my tasks, there were very few that only I could do. I was blessed with friends and family who would have gladly pitched in if I’d only asked. However, my sense of responsibility overtook my good sense. My pride stood between me and rest.

So, please don’t think that only you can save the day or that you alone can perform a task with excellence. What expectations are you trying to meet that could just as easily be met by someone else? Don’t be too proud to ask, especially when it comes to caring for loved ones. Give the people in your life the opportunity to not have any regrets! Let them help. Let others do what they can do. Those cherished memories you hope to create are counting on you!

God sits on the throne quietly urging the Spirit to send just the right people to you at just the right time. Recognize His voice. Listen to it. Find the rest your body and emotions need. By letting go of lesser things outside your calling, God just might bless you with greater things you were actually created to do. Let go, and let God do what only He can do!

Paul knew he needed the support of his friends to do what God had called him to do. I’m sure you can relate to the discouragement he felt when he failed to locate Titus, his much-needed friend and brother in Christ.

“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though the Lord opened a door for me, I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. Instead, I said good-bye to them and left for Macedonia.”

(2 Corinthians 2:12-13)

Later, when he met up with Titus in Macedonia Paul gave God all the credit for the comfort that only He can provide.

When we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longing, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.”

(2 Corinthians 7:5-7)

No matter the season, the stress, the heartache, or the grief, celebrate the God whose divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)