September 28th, 2012
I love books.
I love to read.
I’m sitting in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky, this morning needing to get ready for a day full of workshops and trainings for academic team coaching, but I had to take some time to read before jumping into the day.
And I’m so glad I did.
One book I picked up recently at a Goodwill store in Columbus (when I was with my clown friends) is called “EPIC: The Story God is Telling and the Role That is Yours to Play,” by John Eldredge.
It’s a small book and I recognized the author as one I had heard of, so I decided to buy it.
When I was packing yesterday morning, I put it in my bag in case I had a little quiet time.
This morning after I read the Bible, I picked it up.
Immediately, I knew this book was going to be “just what I needed to read” as I read the quote by G.K. Chesterton at the beginning which says,
“I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story there is a story teller.”
Growing up, I always thought of life as a story.
I can remember talking with my sister after big events in life ended. We would say, “Well, it’s time to start a new chapter.”
Or when something big was starting it was always, “Wonder what will happen in this chapter?”
Even though I wasn’t reading during those years, God was writing.
And as I read Eldredge’s first chapter, I knew that even now God is still writing in my life and in yours.
My Bible reading this morning included the story of Mary coming to the well and meeting Jesus there.
If you’ve read that story you know that this particular Mary had experienced some pretty rough chapters in her life, and even at this moment was living in sin with a man who wasn’t her husband.
Her story was one that I am sure she was ashamed of, and meeting Jesus at the well was not the chapter she was expecting to be part of next.
Look at this picture.
It almost brings tears to my eyes when I think of how critical this moment was in Mary’s story.
After this conversation she is about to have with a Man she has never met, Mary’s life changes forever.
She goes from sinner to redeemed, hopeless to filled with hope, lost to found, forsaken to loved, used to cherished…….
And the path she took to get to this moment was a path she walked on nearly every single day.
I don’t know about you, but I feel a kind-of excitement this morning when I remember that God is always working even when we may feel that things are mundane and hopeless.
Maybe your job is miserable.
Maybe your marriage is falling apart.
Maybe you are making really bad decisions.
Maybe you are lonely.
Maybe you are sad.
Maybe you are bored.
However you find yourself today, remember this,
Jesus longs to show up on your everyday path and transform you.
This blog post may be His way of stepping in and changing you.
A conversation with a friend today may be the very thing you need to turn your life around.
I don’t know.
But I do know this, God loves you.
He created you for a purpose and He has plans for you!!!
Life is not easy.
But when we face tough times, God still has the pen in His hand and He is writing, using even the things the devil throws into our lives as ways of reaching us.
Like a movie director who sets the stage perfectly for a powerful drama to unfold, God looks at you and says, “I want this story to mean something!”
I wish I could write more, but the clock is ticking way too quickly.
I just had to take time to say this,
YOU ARE PART OF A BIGGER STORY THAN JUST THE LITTLE WORLD AROUND YOU!
And everyone you meet is part of a bigger story too!
Be thankful for all the characters in your story and ask God to show you how He is using and them to draw the world closer to the Author and Perfecter of our faith!
I love you all so much!
September 27th, 2012
Jesus didn’t like what He saw when He entered the Temple in John chapter 2.
He was so upset that he made a whip from ropes and drove out every vendor and every animal.
He turned over tables and made people leave.
I’m sure the disciples were standing speechless as they watched the series of events unfold.
The calm Jesus they knew and loved had suddenly become anything but calm.
In John 2:17 it says,
“Then his disciples remembered this prophecy about Jesus from the Scriptures, “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
As I sit here this morning trying to sort out all my thoughts about work, all the details of my trip to an academic team training that starts tonight in Louisville, all the last-minute plans that go along with the 5K that is happening a week from Saturday, I have struggled with the words I read in John 2.
Jesus did not approve of the Temple of God being used as a Market Place.
What was supposed to be sacred had become a place to make a profit.
A place for worshipping God had been replaced with a place for buying things to try to please Him.
So many times in my life, I have allowed my personal temple to be transformed into something I don’t like.
I just wonder what Jesus would remove from me today if He could come and “clean out” all the things that don’t belong.
I feel like the little kid who keeps touching something hot even after I know it’s going to burn me.
With a deep breath, I’m asking God to continue to point out all the areas of my life that need purged.
Like a closet in deep need of a makeover, I am asking God to clean me, empty me, reorganize me.
I’m praying that once again I can reach a place where I say, “No,” and I don’t feel like I’m going to disappoint people.
I will always say that one of the most guilt-free times in my life was when Nick was sick.
I didn’t feel guilty about staying home.
I didn’t feel guilty when I said, “No.”
I didn’t feel guilty focusing on my family.
I knew that taking care of them was the most important part of my life, and I was happy to be doing just that.
I don’t want to whine this morning. I am thankful for so many things about my life.
But I do know that some things are upside down, some things are too chaotic.
And I believe Jesus just might do some passionate purging if I allowed Him to enter my Temple and have His way.
Today, I’m praying that all of us will look deep within our own lives and ask one question,
“If Jesus showed up today, what would He remove from my life so that I could worship God more freely?”
I want to be a Temple for God that invites worship not chaos.
I want to be a Temple for God that is focused on loving Him not trying to please Him.
I want to be a place He enters and feels at home not in the way.
“Help me, Lord, to clear out all the clutter and make room for You.”
This may take a little time, but I can tell it’s coming.
And I’m getting excited!
September 26th, 2012
This morning my Bible reading included the time when Jesus was separated from His parents for three days as they traveled back to Nazareth after the Passover.
Jesus was 12 years old and he had chosen to stay in Jerusalem without telling His mom and dad.
Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the Temple sitting and talking with the religious teachers.
The Bible doesn’t say a lot about those three days.
But this morning as I was reading, I was wondering what those three days must have been like for Mary and Joseph.
Three long days…….
that included three long nights.
I’m just thinking that Mary and Joseph had to be feeling a lot of anxiety and fear.
To be chosen as the parents of the Son of God and then to lose Him……….
I’m wondering this morning if there was any significance to the three day time period.
The Bible says that after they found Jesus they returned to Nazareth and Mary “stored up all these things in her heart.”
I have to believe that after Jesus’ death on the cross, Mary reflected on all the memories with her son and this particular memory must have come back into her mind.
Three days without her Son.
Not understanding where He could be.
We don’t really know a lot about Mary’s emotional side throughout the Bible, but we do know this.
She trusted God.
And I’m just thinking that this little story of Jesus’ separation from his mom and dad at the age of 12 had more than one purpose, and one of them might have been to help Mary make it through the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I can almost hear her tearfully praying, “Lord, I trusted you when my Son was 12 and I couldn’t find Him. He was with you all along. I’m trusting you again even though it’s hard.”
After I read the Bible this morning, I opened my computer to write to all of you.
My Facebook page was still open from yesterday, and I had received a message from my dear friend Linda Sparks.
As I read her words and then watched the video she had sent, tears ran down my eyes.
I believe the song she sent to me this morning is the song all grieving and broken moms, including Mary, sing every day.
I believe it’s also the song that anyone sings who is trying to trust God and make it in this world, especially when they are walking in a valley.
I wanted to share it with you today.
Praying you will place your life in His hands today,
September 25th, 2012
(Click the arrow on the playlist to the right just under my picture if you want my blog music to play while you are visiting here.)
It was 3:30 a.m. when we finally went to bed.
Visiting with old friends and playing Pictionary Man for hours was a perfect way to spend our Friday night together.
When you’re with people you love, time seems to slip away so quickly so you soak up every second….cherishing every laugh, every funny memory.
Crawling out of our beds the next morning, we all returned to the kitchen table and again chose to pass many more hours talking over coffee and sharing all kinds of things about each of our life journeys.
There’s no way to measure the worth of friends in money.
Only in time.
And that’s what we had this weekend!
Time to laugh.
Time to share.
Time to hug.
And tme to shop…..in second-hand stores, of course!
When Donna found clown noses in a Goodwill store, we couldn’t pass up the chance to embrace the moment and just be silly!
(This pose below was for my mom who had childhood friends who did this with their hands when they were too excited to contain themselves!)
We were so excited to find clown noses, because we had already spotted a clown suit earlier in the day!
And we have such fond memories of clowns together from several years ago.
With flashing clown noses on each of our faces, we hopped in Christine’s Trailblazer and headed out on an adventure!
Stopping at red lights with our red noses blinking, we watched for people in cars around us to look and wonder what in the world we were doing!
I haven’t laughed so hard in such a long time!
I’m pretty sure the Starbucks employees are still talking about us!
I’m so thankful for the memories of Saturday!
I’m especially thankful, because Sunday seemed to slap me back into reality with a brutality that is difficult to explain.
I was soooo sleepy.
(That should have been a warning.)
Fatigue does a number on my emotions, so I was already weak when reality slipped back into my life.
See, napping is risky for me, because waking up from an afternoon sleep seems to push me back in time.
Especially when I nap next to Tim while he is watching football.
I wake up feeling an anxiety that is hard to put into words.
It’s like my heart has travelled back in time, and the sudden realization that it is Sunday afternoon always sends my head spinning with memories of Nick.
I can’t explain it except to say that “Sunday afternoon naps aren’t good for me anymore.”
My heart begins racing when I wake up to the afternoon light with sounds of a football game in the air.
Immediately, I find myself feeling as if Nick is going to come through the door saying “hi” or be sitting in the room right there with us watching the game.
And in the cruel minutes that it takes to remember that Nick will ever again be right here in this room with us while we are on this earth, I find myself slipping.
Slipping into a sadness so deep I can barely breathe.
I try to regroup.
I try to remember that Nick is better off than all of us….
In the presence of God forever.
But sometimes it’s not enough to have faith when you’re grieving.
Because no matter how much I believe in eternity it doesn’t change today.
Today, Nick is not here.
I go to choir practice with a fake smile, clown nose stuffed in my purse as if that memory is a childish attempt at “playing like I’m normal,” when I know I never will be.
And I try to sing along with songs that make salty tears creep out of my eyes and onto my cheeks.
Songs that speak of not understanding God’s plan but trusting anyway.
I try to laugh with the ladies around me in between the songs, and I hide my hurt behind comedy when I want to run to my car where I don’t have to hide my agony.
And finally it’s over, and I’m able to climb behind the steering wheel of my car.
And a dear friend sits with me as I let the tears flow hard and heavy.
I miss Nick.
I want to touch him, hug him, hear his voice.
I want to have another chance at being a busy mom with all my kids at home.
I want to go back in time and somehow change my present tense world.
But I can’t.
So, I cry until the tears are gone.
I empty the hurting me into a Kleenex and onto my sleeve.
I breathe deep the promise that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” and I drive home.
And I think that if God is really close to me, I’d love to see Him, feel Him, know He’s near…….
Then He shows up.
Not as an angel but as a KCU football player.
One of my football boys comes over to pick up the brownies I made for him earlier in the day; and as we talk, he hears the shakiness in my voice.
(I’m sure he also notices the mascara lightly smeared below my eyes.)
He asks if I’m okay, so I tell him a little about Nick as I point to some pictures on our wall,
and then he begins to share his story…….
His story is what God wants me to hear.
He tells about his mom…..
A mom who isn’t really part of his life anymore.
A mom who was addicted to drugs for most of his childhood.
A mom who never quite recovered from the death of his little brother.
And he talks of how he was only three when his brother died
and how he still carries his brother’s birth and death dates on his football bag.
Suddenly, I know that God has sent this football player to me because he needs a mom and because his mom needs a friend and because I have love to share with both of them.
I realize with perfect clarity that had I not had tears earlier, I never would have heard about Caleb’s personal pain.
I hug him, give him his brownies, and send him on his way, telling him I’ll see him Saturday at the football game.
I think back on my weekend; and I realize that God was preparing me for this moment, surrounding me with friends who love me.
I am aware with every inch of my being that “clowning around on Saturday” eased my pain long enough to prepare me for Sunday.
So I’m going to carry my clown nose in my purse for a long, long time, reminding me to keep smiling and to keep crying.
Reminding me that it is good to laugh.
But that it’s also okay to cry.
As a matter of fact, I slipped the flashing red nose over my nose tonight during an academic competition
just long enough for one of my coach friends to see as she was whispering something very serious into my ear.
I’m hoping that the laughter that comes from seeing me in a clown nose from time to time will temporarily ease the pain for others just as it eased my own.
And I hope that I can be the mom my football player never had and the friend his mom never knew.
I’m praying that God can keep transforming my pain into opportunities for sharing His love with a hurting world.
Tim told me once that he believes that God has called me to be like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.
I’m beginning to believe that he is right.
And that’s okay.
September 21st, 2012
My Bible reading this morning listed a series of genealogies and then the assignments of various people in the temple.
I kept thinking, “How does this apply to me?”
And then it hit me.
The temple is now me!
The temple is now you!
We carry the Holy Spirit inside of us instead of having to go to a certain place and have a high priest enter the Holy of Holies for us.
So, when I read about all these people who had certain roles in and around the temple, I keep thinking of how we all have responsibilities in and around each other.
What I’m taking from my reading today is this:
I am not only the temple of the Lord, I am a gatekeeper for others, a guard, a trusted official for others.
So are you.
God has entrusted us all with His Spirit as well as the ability to help others protect His Spirit.
Do something today to help another Christian in their life as a temple of God.
If God can distract us from His Work, we not only become a fragile temple, we also become a poor gatekeeper and unreliable guard.
Praying for you all today.
Thanks for your prayers for me.
I love you,
September 20th, 2012
After the wall was rebuilt in the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites began to move back into Jerusalem and settle into towns.
One of the first things they did after getting settled was join together and ask Ezra to read from the Book of the Law of Moses.
As he read and they began to understand the messages from God and how far they had strayed from God’s law, they began to cry.
Nehemiah told them “Don’t weep. This is a sacred day!”
So the people went away to rejoice, because they “had heard God’s Words and understood them!”
In the next chapter of Nehemiah, the people come back together and I love the series of events that takes place.
First the people begin to go over the law in greater detail.
Then they discover what the Lord had commanded them to do long ago.
And then I love what it says next………
“The people went out” and did exactly what the law said to do.
Then it says, “They were filled with great joy!”
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to always be the person God’s Word calls me to be.
I fall short time and time again.
Sometimes I fall so short that like the Israelites, I cry.
But what power awaits me and you if we realize that when we read God’s Word and understand our flaws, it is time to celebrate.
Because with the understanding comes a chance to do something!
I want to be like the Israelites who went away rejoicing and then returned to study more closely exactly what they needed to do next.
And then do it!
I want God’s Word to continually change me into the person God wants me to be.
I am on a journey.
So are you.
The destination is Heaven.
Our map is the Bible and when we read it, we get the next bit of direction….
the next turn in our walk with God.
We are not all at the same place, but we are all “some place” on the road.
I tend to look around at who is with me on the journey instead of ahead at who is leading me.
I tend to compare my steps to those beside me instead of to the footsteps of Jesus right in front of me.
I tend to trip and stumble because I look down at the path with all of it’s bumpy patches instead of looking up and realizing that God is ahead of me “smoothing the rough road.”
I want to run on this journey, not stagger along barely making it.
Yes, life is stressful.
Yes, jobs are demanding.
Yes, people are disappointing.
Yes, things don’t always come easy.
Jesus set a powerful example of what it means to live a life with great significance.
He walked to Calvary for us, and I’m just thinking that His path was a lot more difficult than any we have walked.
So, as you open God’s Word remember this.
It may cause you to cry.
But then rejoice because it has moved you.
Then study it more.
Do what it says.
Be filled with joy.
And keep striving to be exactly who God longs for you to be!
Have a happy Thursday!
September 19th, 2012
“The people who slowly become typical have the greatest problem wrapping their minds around a dynamic friendship with an invisible, alive God.”
…from Love Does, by Bob Goff
When I read this sentence this morning, I had to stop and read it several times in a row.
I love the thought of having a dynamic friendship with God, and I really love the idea of it being okay to not be “typical.”
When I look at the clouds and think I see things like the word, “HI,” or a cross or the sun shining through in a very special way, I love thinking that maybe, just maybe, God is speaking to me.
When I see a heart chipped out of pavement in the parking lot, I love feeling special……in a very “un-special” moment.
I’ve often wondered if when we get to Heaven God might show us all the times He tried to say “hi” and we missed it.
Maybe we’re looking down at our phones when a butterfly passes by with a color so brilliant it would have taken our breath away.
Maybe we are so focused on the yard needing mowed that we miss the sight of one little wild flower popping up in the midst of weeds.
Who knows how many times God tries to get our attention, but our hectic schedules, our fast-paced lives, get in the way of our friendship with the Creator of the Universe.
I am probably the last person to talk about slowing down………..
But deep inside I know this,
In the midst of being a full-time employee of a school system and the mom of a busy high school girl and a volunteer at church, I make my relationship with God a very important part of all I do.
I talk to God often in the car as I’m driving.
I look for messages in clouds.
I listen for His messages in the voices of friends and strangers.
Yes, I’m in a busy little season.
I’m trying to soak up every part of Olivia’s high school career because I know how quickly she’ll be off to college and then my role as “mom” will end in the fulltime sense,
but even in the craziness of our life right now,
my friendship with God is growing deeper and deeper
I feel less and less typical every day.
And I love it!
Today, do something “untypical” as you go about your day.
Look up instead of down.
Look out instead of in.
Talk to God out loud in your car.
Whisper a prayer as you’re teaching or taking care of a patient or whatever it is your job involves….
Do something to break the “typical cycle” of life and embrace the idea of having a dynamic friendship with an invisible, alive God.
I promise you’ll feel His presence in a special way when you do!
He’s with you.
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
September 18th, 2012
Karen Kingsbury, America’s favorite inspirational novelist, has a new book which will be released on October 23rd, The Bridge.
I had the opportunity to pre-read this sweet story last weekend, and I loved every page.
Karen’s ability to move from one character’s thoughts and feelings to another’s captivated me.
I found myself thinking about the characters long after I stopped reading, as if they were part of my family and I needed to know how they were doing.
Centered around a small bookstore in Tennessee, the characters in this book discover that there is more to life than money and fame.
After you read this book, you will want to read more, laugh more, love more, and simply live more fully.
I have one copy of this book, and I am hoping to receive a few more to give away!
If you would like to be entered in a drawing for Karen’s book, The Bridge, please post a comment below that includes your name and email address.
I have a friend who was able to go on a cruise hosted by Karen Kingsbury, and I can say with confidence that Karen is as genuine in her personal life as she is in her writing style.
She calls every reader a “friend,” and she treats every human being as an equal.
I truly believe she writes from her heart with the goal of making life a little better for everyone who chooses to pick up one of her books.
The next time you are in a library or a bookstore, look for one of her novels and see what you think.
I wanted to let you all know that Amanda is still in the hospital, but she is hanging in there. I spoke with her on the phone for a few minutes yesterday, and it was good to hear her voice.
Thank you for your prayers.
Have a wonderful Tuesday and make a difference in someone’s life today.
You never know how God is planning to use to make someone else’s day a little better.
I love you all,
September 17th, 2012
It was a normal Monday morning, or so I thought.
I pushed “snooze” on the alarm clock several times and entered that half-awake state where my mind started wandering, feeling a sort of heaviness about the pace this week holds at work and after school.
Thankfully, Tim prayed for our week before I got out of bed.
Prayed for each of our kids by name.
Prayed for friends who are feeling overwhelmed with life.
I took the puppies out and started the coffee.
Everything felt routinely normal, looking back the normalness of the routine almost seems robotic as I knew the next thing would be getting a cup of coffee and sitting to read my Bible.
And then I heard Tim’s voice from the bedroom,
“Scott (he is our minister and Tim’s friend) sent a text at 3 a.m.”
Immediately I hurried to the door of our room.
I knew something had happened.
I didn’t know what to expect.
Then he told me of a couple at our church losing their baby in the middle of the night.
She was due in just two months.
My heart broke immediately as I have just begun to share in the joy of this coming baby.
This sweet first-time mom is my youth group partner at church on Wednesday nights with the 8th grade girls.
We talk about her baby every week.
The girls and I were planning a shower.
And now, Amanda is in a hospital bed, heartbroken and, I know, confused.
And I’m here fixing a cup of coffee and preparing to go to work when honestly I just want to be doing something for Amanda.
And yet I know nothing I do or say is going to take away the heartache.
So, I returned to the kitchen and got my predictable cup of coffee but as I pushed the button, causing coffee to fill my cup, tears filled my eyes and I wept.
I wept for every mom who is called to this road of heartache.
I wept for every husband who has to watch his wife suffer in physical and emotional pain…unable to carry any of it for her.
I wept for the unfairness of life and how I hate to see anyone experience loss but how it just seems extra-cruel when it’s someone who loves God as much as Amanda does.
I just wept.
I sent a text to a friend whose daughter is in our small group at church, a mother who also lost a baby several years ago and who knows heartache like I do, asking her to pray and asking her what we should do.
And then I took my “every-day cup of coffee” and found my Bible, and I read for a while about Nehemiah’s desire to rebuild the wall.
I read about God’s promise to “brighten the eyes and grant relief” to His people.
Then I began reading Bob Goff’s book, “Love Does.”
I knew that just as Nehemiah’s love for his people caused him to risk asking the king if he could return home, my love for others should cause me to risk something.
God uses us to do His work, but the only way this can happen is if we are willing to the workers.
Today, Amanda needs love.
As I typed those last four words, my computer began shutting down unexpectedly which sent me running for the plug.
As I reached the kitchen table, I saw a new text.
Melissa had replied.
Love is now set in motion as we have a plan for something we can do to help Amanda at least not feel alone.
I returned to my computer, fearing all I had typed was lost.
Thankfully, the computer restarted and my words returned to the screen.
I think God sent me upstairs so that I could see Melissa’s words before I ended this post.
I feel better knowing love has now moved from a feeling to an action.
And today, I’m praying that each of you can take this four letter word, L-O-V-E, and turn it into a verb.
Do something today in the name of love.
Encourage someone today out of love.
Help someone today because of love.
And please keep Amanda and her husband in your prayers today.
September 14th, 2012
We’ll probably never have a book written about us that tells about how we won a beauty pageant and became queen overnight.
We’ll probably never be placed in the presence of a king while and have the opportunity to stand up for an entire group of people, saving their lives from certain death, like Esther was years ago.
But I do believe that every day we are each given very specific opportunities to make critical decisions that change history………
one person at a time, one encounter at a time.
Maybe it’s the way we talk to the person in Walmart who is ringing up our purchases.
Maybe it’s our tone of voice in the drive-thru line when we speak to the drive-thru employee.
Maybe it’s how we treat our co-workers.
Maybe it’s how we handle our students in the midst of stress at work.
What if every moment of every day we could think of ourselves as mini-examples of Queen Esther?
What if we could hear Mordecai saying, “Who knows if perhaps you were made ____________for just such a time as this?”
Fill in the blank with whatever fits.
and on and on and on……….
How much more noble would each act of kindness seem if we could just remember that God has us exactly where He wants us…….
for such a time as this.
Do you ever wonder why you were placed on the planet during this era and not another one?
For whatever reason, you and I are here now
And because I believe in a God of order and purpose, I believe there is a very specific reason each of us is here today.
So, as you go out into the world or work at your home, look up and thank God for every opportunity He gives you to be Him to a extremely broken world.
You are here……….for such a time as this!
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS
Now, all I have is now
To be faithful
To be holy
And to shine
Lighting up the darkness
Right now, I really have no choice
But to voice the truth to the nations
A generation looking for God
For such a time as this
I was placed upon the earth
To hear the voice of God
And do His will
Whatever it is
For such a time as this
For now and all the days He gives
I am here, I am here
And I am His
For such a time as this
You – Do you ever wonder why
Seems like the grass is always greener
Under everybody else’s sky
But right here, right here for this time and place
You can live a mirror of His mercy
A forgiven image of grace
Can’t change what’s happened till now
But we can change what will be
By living in holiness
That the world will see Jesus