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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sometimes it's time to pause

The world got a lot more beautiful on December 5. Lucy Elizabeth Alligood made her debut. She is as perfect as her big brother and big sister and, like her siblings , she makes me want to be a better person , to do my part to bring good to the world around me, and to help her follow Christ with her whole heart
I'll get back to writing posts soon but for now I will just enjoy the blessing that God has sent to our family. Welcome baby girl. We are so glad you were born !

Friday, December 4, 2015

When Panic Attacks - part 1

Fear has always been around.  Since Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden out of fear, this emotion has been controlling behavior of people everywhere.  If not controlling, then threatening to, and inducing paralysis, guilt, and panic. 


Fear of all sorts of things - heights, public speaking, needles (my personal phobia to address) as well as fear of rejection, loneliness, loss of security, and death.  Even fear itself is frightening.  It is destructive to relationships, careers, and personal growth.  And it is cyclic in that fear often induces more fear, anxiety, and stress.


As followers of Christ, we usually suffer our fears privately, wondering if we are spiritual failures to succumb to the negative feelings that leave us paralyzed emotionally, mentally, and even physically.  We try to address our fears in lots of ways, most of which do not lead to sustained success.  We feel guilty, telling ourselves that we ought not to feel this way. We might try positive thinking or even quoting some Bible verses from time to time.  Or we ignore the fears and try to avoid situations that might trigger those feelings of terror.  Or we convince ourselves that fear is somehow normal and therefore we must just deal with it as best we can, often with medication that at least takes the edge off the panic.  Then we usually lay shame on top of the fear.


And yet, the fears persist. The physical manifestations are indeed real - elevated blood pressure, sweaty palms, acceleration of heart rate, difficulty breathing. So are the emotional symptoms - feelings of helplessness, panic, and despair are brought on by the body's response to fear-induced adrenaline levels.  All too often, those who suffer from fear usually find themselves eventually locked in a battle with depression as well.  It's a natural outgrowth.


So, what do we do?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What do you do when it seems overwhelming? Panic Attacks - Introduction

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
 yes, I would wander far away;
    I would lodge in the wilderness



I think every person alive has felt the angst penned in Psalm 55:6,7.  When pressures mount, or sorrows pile up, or demands overwhelm us, there is a soul-cry that bubbles up - "just get me out of here!"


I know the feeling well.  The longing to escape the pressures and troubles that cause pain and angst and sorrow.  The desire for rest and comfort and peace.


I am so grateful for the vulnerable authenticity of the psalmist.  It is great encouragement to know that God deemed it profitable for my training in righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:16) to include this passage in Scripture.  I urge you to read the entire Psalm; it is very likely that you, too, have felt the need to escape life's unrelenting stresses.  This Psalm might help you process the strain.


Let's have a look at some of it together....

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving and Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!



Psalm 100:4 is one verse of one of the most famous psalms - it is one that lifts our hearts in praise of our great God.  Especially suitable for this, the season of thanksgiving.


Note that there is a distinction here between thanksgiving and praise.  I don't think it's just semantics - it seems that "thanksgiving" is gratitude for what God has done while "praise" is worship for Who He is.   We are exhorted throughout Scripture to do both but notice the difference in effect...."thanksgiving" admits us into His gates....but "praise" brings us closer - entrance into the courts of His presence.


Praising God for Who He is turns our attention away from ourselves and what we need/want and focuses our hearts on Him.   The next verse describes some of His attributes :
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.



God is good.
This Hebrew adjective means "good, pleasant, beautiful, excellent, delightful, lovely, fruitful, joyful, cheerful, kind, correct, right, virtuous".  Wow - that's a lot packed into "good"!


He loves us relentlessly and unwaveringly.  And forever.
Being able to know His love in the face of changing times and my own unreliable heart is great comfort.  And confidence.


He is trustworthy.  From eternity past to eternity future.
He is certain, dependable, and sure.  Indeed He is worthy of all my trust.


In this season of giving thanks for all He has done for us, let us draw even nearer to His Throne with praise - an acknowledgement of Who He Is.


Hallelujah Amen!





Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Words

Recently, I observed a child be wounded by critical words from an adult.  You can imagine the ire I felt inside.  Rather than pulling out my voodoo dolls like I wanted to, I tried to reflect. I prayed that the child would be able to work through it and that the unfounded words would not take root in the child's life.

But I know the odds for that are slim.  The power of life and death are in the tongue.  And the words we hear bring either life or death to us.   Why do we, who should know better, do such things?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Just plain weary

 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted  Hebrews 12:3


Weary.  That's what I have been tempted to be for nearly a year. 


More than tired or even exhausted - "weary" seeps deeper than muscles and bones and saturates the soul.  Depletes it, actually.


It's been a very full year.  On top of previous full years.  Culminations of joys and challenges.  Of demands and disappointments.  Of opportunities and setbacks.  Of blessings and burdens.  Personal heartaches.  Ministry celebrations.  Relational mountaintops and career valleys. Gains.  A severe loss.


I have often felt just myself sliding into a place called weary. 


On several occasions, I wanted to follow the advice of several blog posts and books that are making the rounds lately to "give yourself grace".  Well intentioned I know, to provide support and encouragement during some tough spots. To offer strength for the weary and deplete soul. (What actually worked for me was not the books and the blog posts but rather the overwhelming outpouring of cards and texts and meals and flowers and Tab - and every single one has been deeply needed, appreciated, and treasured - once more let me say thank you and that every single thing nourished my soul!!!)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Good Night, Daddy

Good night, Daddy.  Love you.  See you in the morning.


Every night of my life - til I went away to college and then whenever we were together - those were the last words I spoke before going to sleep.
Those were not trite words for me.  They verbalized my security, my comfort, my stability.  And yes, my love.  We never hung up the phone or left the other's presence without saying "I love you".  That's the way it always was. 
Saying good night was not a rote tradition.  It was a sweet, familiar, declaration.
Good night, Daddy.  Love you.  See you in the morning.

Good night , Daddy.
Stability. The familiar end to every day

Love you 
Comfort. Confidence of acceptance and significance 

See you in the morning
Security.  Trust. Assurance that he'd be there and all would be well.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Well, I heard....

I really try not to blog when I am upset.  I do my best to remain  upbeat or at least objective.  But I keep seeing this sin hurt so many people and this time it's too close to home to remain quiet.


Yeah, I'm ticked off .  And I am going to process it by blogging til I feel better.


So if you are easily offended or don't like to wade through emotions, you'll be better off skipping Living Letters today.  And I'll understand.  Just catch me next time and I promise I'll try and return to emotional equilibrium.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being perfect - even just one thing

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48


Most of us would just as soon slide right over this command, wouldn't we?  At the very least, we want to interpret it in a way that cuts us at least a bit of slack. 

What does it mean - being perfect like God???

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wardrobe Malfunction

About a decade ago, the halftime show of The Super Bowl featured a couple of celebrities whose song and dance routine garnered much attention, some of which was quite negative.  Their controversial act included a brief reveal that many of the viewing public found distasteful.  In the backlash, the exposure was excused as "wardrobe malfunction" and opened up great debate on indecency all over the world.


Whether or not that reveal was indeed a malfunction is certainly debatable but I wonder if, spiritually speaking, we Christians display frequent "wardrobe malfunctions" of our own. 


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Girl Power -Part 2

Girl Power.


Yesterday we looked at the double-barreled weapon of praying God's Word.  If you haven't already checked out the link to Scripture prayers here on the blog, please do so.  Or make your own set.  God has made available to you and me this potent resource, capable of moving mountains of rebellion, prejudice, greed, unforgiveness, and insecurity.  The weapon with the potential to unleash torrents of love and joy and peace, of reconciliation and health and confidence, of changed hearts and mended marriages and secure children. The tool for all Christ-followers.  He just says ask.


For us girlfriends, He gives us something else powerful, too.  More of a tool than a weapon.  A tool more effective than the strongest bully or the greatest orator...and especially more so than the most manipulative personality. 


Like many of God's choices, it seems like a paradox.  Counterintuitive. Like it couldn't possibly work.


But God tells us wives the way to persuade the hubs - even one who doesn't follow God's Word - is not to better explain our point of view.  Nor to cry or freeze him out or pitch a fit.  Not even to get him to read the right books or listen to the right podcasts or join a men's group.


Rather it is

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Girl Power

I grew up in the throes of feminism.  All around me were emerging philosophies that insisted (rightly) on equality of pay and opportunity.  Slowly women began being recognized as capable of the same accomplishments as men.  This movement gave great opportunity to my generation and all that have followed.


Like all changes, though, there came some bad with the good.  In attempts to establish ourselves as "equal", women began to believe that meant "sameness".  As a gender, we morphed into acting like our power came from argumentation, domination, and aggression.  I suppose that has won us some battles but I posit that perhaps we have lost more than we have gained.  When I look around, I see an awful lot of females acting like bullies.  All in the name of power.  And, while men may outwardly defer to their demands, it seems to me that inwardly they long for women to be women and for men to be men.  Equal is one thing...sameness is another.


God's design is not to assign positions of inferiority and superiority, but rather for both genders to express different aspects of His nature.  In the image of God, He crated him, male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27  Singularly, each gender cannot convey the attributes of God but collectively, we get a picture of what He is like.


So when we insist on sameness, we rob the world of an opportunity to see the glory of God. 


And we wind up resorting to ineffective tactics to achieve the power we need to influence those around us.  Things like airing our opinions too freely.  Insisting that others do things our way because we're right.  Pushing back when we get bumped.  Demanding that our "needs" get met. Proving our worth by challenging authority or competing fiercely with those around us. 


Compared to the repression previous generations have experienced, some find this preferable.


But I don't think it's an "either/or" option.


God has indeed equipped us with girl power.  Ways to handle even the most impossible situations with laudable results.  Options that every woman of God can avail herself of, regardless of her education, her social standing, or her life stage.


Two "weapons", if you will.  Although I extend a word of caution here - "weapons" are used in combat against an enemy.  We need to remember who the enemy is...and who it is not.  Our enemy is not our husband, our children, our employer or our neighbor.  Not flesh and blood at all but rather, our enemy is spiritual. The enemy who wants to attack us, divide us, and ultimately, destroy us. He shows up in disguise and deceives us into thinking that we should fight another to get what we want.  And in that process, walls are built, souls are damaged, and relationships are severed.


God has a better way.




The first weapon is available to all believers, not just women.  It is actually two weapons in one, strapped together like two sticks of dynamite, powerful for blowing up plans and plots of destruction, of harm, of despair.  An invisible weapon, to be sure, but dynamically effective indeed.
This double-barreled weapon is mentioned in one passage and explained more thoroughly in another:


 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,  for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses 2 Corinthians 10:3,4




The weapons mentioned there are explained further in Ephesians 6:17b-18 - the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view,be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

The weapons? Prayer and God's Word.  In tandem. 
Praying the Word of God.  Taking Scripture and praying it, believing it, standing on Truth.  Powerful for destroying the schemes of the real enemy.  Powerful to accomplish God's will on Earth.  Powerful to fulfill the desires of our hearts. 


Invisible.  But effective.  Powerful.  And available.



When we women are willing to pray, God responds.  And He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think. 


Through prayer, God moves mightily to get His will done on Earth.  When we pray according to His Word, He moves mountains.  He restores relationships, provides protection, appropriates resources, and changes hearts.  All He wants are a few hearts willing to cry out to Him.  To pray and keep praying.  And to follow what He tells us to do.


Prayer.  Not great knowledge or persuasive speech.  Not impressive talent or force of will.  Not tenacity or determination.  Prayer is the tool God makes available for us to wield power.


If you want some help getting started, I have posted a link on the side that lists Scripture prayers for each day of the month - verses to read and pray God's Word back to Him for yourself, your hubby, an your kiddos.  (Tip - the format on a mobile device doesn't show this link in same place as on a laptop so you may have to search -- but it is there :)  )


The second weapon, also quite powerful and effective, is one that God makes available specifically for women, particularly wives, in fact.


The second weapon, well, I'll tell you tomorrow.  This post is getting long!











Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sometimes you just need to talk about it

You know that feeling when you just need to talk to somebody, to unburden yourself, to share your heart?  Intuitively you know that it would help for someone to listen, to empathize, and perhaps provide some insight, some counsel, some help.


So you do.


You "cowgirl up" and summon the courage to talk about what's bothering you, your hurts, and your confusion.  You work up the nerve to "do this community thing" and you lay your cards on the table. For somebody to listen, somebody to care.


It really does take courage to do that.  At least it does for me.  I figure everybody has their own troubles and I am hesitant to add mine to theirs.


So sometimes I do.  And sometimes you do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"It's all grace" - what does that mean, anyway?

Grace.


Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.


Truly.


But what is it, really, and what have we done to it?


Perhaps grace is hard to define.  We try and explain it, but we can hardly understand it.  So we come up with ways to help us comprehend. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why do tragedies occur? 10 things to embrace during seasons of pain

Today, a godly, selfless, radiant wife and Mom of three little girls is being laid to rest. A missionary pouring out her life in a foreign land.  A woman of kindness and enthusiasm and joy. And not that it matters, but she was also very beautiful.


Her young husband is left alone to raise these precious babies and thousands of friends are grieving with him.  Missing Kyra, too.  Wondering how he will manage, where will he land, and why.


From an earthly perspective, it just doesn't make sense.  It doesn't seem "fair".  Why would God allow such a tragedy to befall such wonderful people?  People whose only goal was to serve Him.


I surely cannot answer the "why"  It doesn't make sense to me, either.  If I were running the Universe, I'd take out a whole lot of other people before I brought pain to this family.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I left my heart in Myers Quad

Myers Quad.  Georgia Dawgs know it well.  That wide open space framed by dorms near the heart of campus.  Close to the sacred Sanford Stadium and the 24 hour offerings of Snelling Dining Hall.  Popular path for Frisbee pick up games, football fans, and Friday afternoon eno naps. 


Well, this is just a warning to all that traffic.  Be careful not to stumble on the hemorrhaging mass of tissue lying there.


Because today, I left my heart in Myers Quad.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Building up or breaking down?

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

Proverbs 14:1


Whenever I read this verse, the Spirit probes....where am I building wisely?  And where am I manifesting destructive foolishness?  Let's unpack this Truth and see how a wise woman builds...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

From an older woman...

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled  Titus 2:3-5




I am officially an older woman.
And I take this exhortation seriously.
So I want to share my heart on how I see these principles applied in the lives of women today...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Is it a chore or a privilege ?

Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men
Colossians 3:23

What a great verse .
What a great reminder.
What will obedience to that look like in my life?
Let's look at it this way...

If Jesus were to invite Himself to my home and if He asked me to cook and clean and wash His tunic, how would I most likely respond ?

1.  Enthusiastically - without complaining 
2.  Gladly - cheerfully 
3.  Grateful for the opportunity - not drudgery or a burden nor an inconvenience 
4.  With excellence - the best I have to offer 
5.  Motivated to please Him - my joy and satisfaction would come from seeing Him pleased

Hmmmm I think that's how He wants me to serve His people.... Just as if I were serving Him .

Something to think about.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Is that your final answer?

I love stories with happy endings. Especially those where things are headed for ruin, all hope seems lost, but then God changes the direction.  Victory.  Dreams fulfilled...exceeded!  Hallelujah!


Like Hannah, who longed for a baby.  Years of disappointment, devastation.  And then God's plan unfolds...baby Samuel.


Like Joseph, despised by his brothers.  Wrongly accused.  Forgotten in jail.  And then God's plan unfolds...elevated to second in command and family relationships restored.


Like Peter, bold, opinionated Peter, who falls prey to fear and cowardice.  And then shame and self-doubt.  And then God's plan unfolds...bravery, leadership, loyalty to Christ to the point of ultimate self-denial.


I love these stories.


And so we all should.


But if we're not careful, we're prone to develop a fantasy approach to God's plan for our lives.  One where we write the script.  One where we propose our plans - careful to include some disappointment, of course - but ultimately, one where we expect God to sign on to the ending we've envisioned. Where we expect that setbacks and defeats are only temporary and that, eventually, we are entitled for our personal dreams to come true.


I was experiencing a "no" from God recently and I was really disappointed.  I searched His Word for some reassurance that this was not His "final answer". 


To be honest, I don't know if He gave me an answer to that question.  Maybe this is only a brief obstacle.  But it might indeed be His "final answer".


I'd like to share the passage He took me to....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Judge not?

One of the most cited verses in all of Scripture, to be sure.


And that's exactly what it says - Judge not, that you be not judged.  Matthew 7:1


What does it mean?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Apology

Yesterday I wrote a post to encourage my fellow homeschooling Moms.  Some folks that are new on this often lonely/discouraging/self-doubt inducing journey asked for some perspective of one with two decades logged on the trail.


What I posted was intended to encourage but it wound up being hurtful.  Mostly to my son.


In my blurry mind, I thought I had his permission to share his very personal thoughts but that was not his intent at all.  He works very hard not to offend anyone with his views or choices or opinions and my post jeopardized that.  My son is a man of integrity and compassion and his deepest desire is to build bridges to people, not walls.


While I don't apologize for my unabashed support for homeschooling, I deeply regret sharing what he didn't want public.  Additionally, if anyone other than homeschooling Moms read that post (even though I sincerely asked that you not), I publicly ask your forgiveness


Thank you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Frozen

Several of you asked for details when my sweet Katie thanked me on FB for the freezer meals I recently brought her.
So here goes - what's up with freezer meals??

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are you ready?

The tragedy in Charleston has us all contemplative.  These people were surely in the safest possible place - church on a Wednesday night.


It takes a committed Christian to be at church on a Wednesday night.
Surely, we think, they would be protected from evil.


My guess, though, is that they weren't there to be protected.  They were there to love Jesus and one another.


Because of that, they were ready to face even the deepest of evil.  When it confronted them,disguised initially as a friend.  Because they walked with Jesus in the ordinary days, they were ready to face evil and fear and death with confidence and peace.


They were ready.


Evil didn't send an advance notice.  No warning was issued to alert them of terror and untimely death.
But they were ready all the same.


What a lesson to us all.


We have no promise of tomorrow, much less of peace and comfort and protection.


The readiness of these nine heroes (I don't refer to them as victims) speaks to me, for sure. They were ready to die. But something else stands out.


The readiness of the survivors.


I was astounded at the responses of the families of these heroes.  They, too, were unaware that pure evil would upend their lives that fateful day in June.  They, too, had no warning of what would confront them.


But they were ready.

They had no time to prepare a mature, well-thought out response to evil.  They were given no notice that the microphones of the world would be thrust in their face to capture this intensely personal reaction. 


But they were ready.


They were ready, yes, to grieve, but also to respond with grace and forgiveness.


They were ready to lean completely on the love and sovereign grace of their Savior even in - especially in - the face of unspeakable tragedy. 


Because of how they lived on the "ordinary" days, they were ready to live a life that makes Christ known to an unbelieving world.  A life that exude peace and love and grace. And hope. 


A life like this is ready to die...and ready to live, whichever God numbers for that day. A life like this cannot be explained apart from the glory of God.


What we have observed in this Charleston community is a result of a group of people who were ready.


Ready to die.


And ready to live.


Are you ready?


I Peter 3:15 - Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Love is an Apple Pie

Life has inevitable valleys. 


Some darker and deeper than others.  But there's no escaping the valleys.


There are just gonna be some in every life.  We all have to walk them.


And in those valleys, there are some places that have to be walked in single file.  Places where no one can walk beside you or even carry you - you have to walk through certain spots in the valleys alone.


I know that Christ is always with us, of course, but there are places we simply have to pass through solo.  Narrow canyons where not even the closest friends or dearest of family can join us.


It's hard to see someone you love traversing those treacherous ravines.  So often we just don't know how to help.  Responses can range from avoidance to offers of "let me know if I can help" to finding excuses for non-action.  Intuitively we know that some places in the valley are single file...but we fail to realize that we are not helpless to empower those who find themselves there.


There are things that can be done that help.


I am finding those places lonely indeed.  But bearable because of those who stand on the rim of the canyon, pouring out love in a thousand different forms.


Love in the form of


texts that assure me of love and prayers
VIP treatment at my favorite pharmacy
cards in the mailbox
videos of adorable babies that I long to squeeze and kiss
an extra long hug from one who's already navigated this particular canyon
a quick phone call that says "I care about you and yours"
flowers
impromptu prayers in the Publix parking lot
homemade muffins and energy balls and a casserole
CFA milkshakes and a jitterbug dance
reaching out to wipe my tears...and crying with me
the sharing of a funny moment or saying from a kid I adore
a simple "how are things today"
a homemade apple pie, delivered warm from the oven
even the kindness of a stranger who has no clue of the journey I'm on


All these things are strangely...beautifully...powerful aid for the solitary places in the valley.


I am grateful.  For love.  Always.  But especially now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Dating Tip

It's VBS at our church this week.  That's "churchspeak" for "Vacation Bible School" - a fun, crazy, hectic, glorious 5 days where kids get to hear the incredible Good News of God's love.


It is my privilege to get the chance to hang out with middle schoolers.


This has to be the greatest age.


A cataclysmic mix of emotions and energies and enigma.


Tonight I am going to share with them a really really cool bit of dating advice that I found in Proverbs.


If you happen to read this and then run into some 6th-8th grade girls from Watkinsville, don't spoil my lesson.  I'm looking forward to being the one to give them this tip.


Here it is:

Friday, May 29, 2015

To the grandmother at Cookout

I assume you're a grandma. Considering the difference in our ages and the incredulous fact that I'm a grandma you may even be a great grandma!
You had the look about you   Your mannerisms were gentle and easy. Your temperament was sweet and the way you insisted on going last at the drink station let me know you've had lots of practice being selfless. We had a fun albeit quick little chat about how confusing the drink dispenser was.  Your smile was engaging.


I went on to my table and enjoyed my burger with Betsy.  As she set out to conquer her cookie dough milkshake, I took a moment to scan the restaurant, wondering about the hubby I expected to see you sitting across from.


I found you.


But not him.


Not anybody.


You were alone.
Eating your burger and fries.  In solitude.


I think my heart stopped beating for a few seconds as my mind covered the gamut of the possible scenarios of your life.


To lots of young Moms, getting to eat alone - even if only a Cookout burger and fries - sounds like an unattainable luxury!  But I wonder if that maybe isn't how you felt at all.  I don't know what circumstances surround your alone-ess but I think your being here by yourself takes courage.


Maybe you were out running errands and your hubby is at home but it was time for lunch and so you just came in to eat. 
It still takes courage to sit by yourself, surrounded by people.


Maybe you are driving to visit family and this was a stop along the way.
It still takes courage to sit by yourself, surrounded by people.  And to figure out the drink refill thing.


Or maybe your story is that you're alone every day.  That your hubby of a lot of kids and years is gone.  And you're out to eat to beat the alone-ness.
That takes an awful lot of courage.


While Betsy made sure that she left no molecule untouched in her delectable dessert, I wondered if you'd been alone long.  If you'd had a happy marriage, the blessing of children, and a good life.  If you have dear friends that you get together with regularly.  If you feel loved and valued.


Or if you're really lonely and if the prospect of eating by yourself surrounded by people sounded better than eating by yourself all alone.


 The tears that were welling up in my eyes as I considered that this might be your story mean that I admire you.


And that my brief goodbye and watery smile as Betsy and I passed by your table on our way out were meant to pay homage to your courage.


I hope you enjoyed your lunch.  And I hope somehow that you're on your way to a great party to celebrate you.
And I really really really hope that you're not lonely.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pick Your Side

There's an awful lot of angry debating going on these days.  Hostility over views and opinions and perspectives.  Name-calling and vitriol and hurling of insults.  Right and left and up and down and all over.


What bothers me the most are the sources.


Not from "people" but from Christians who insist that their "side" is right and demand that everyone agree with them. 
Or else.


I  personally have strong convictions about right and wrong.  I hold to certain defined beliefs on all sorts of social issues.  And I act on those beliefs - in the voting booth and, hopefully, in my life.


But I do not believe for one minute that those beliefs entitle me to label other people, to belittle them, to try and discredit their faith. Nor do I believe I should crumble under someone else's screaming insistence that their view is the "right one".


I appreciate a passion for dearly held beliefs - even if (especially if!) those beliefs differ from mine.  And I understand the yearning to stand up for those beliefs, particularly when we feel they are underrepresented or misrepresented.
I can respect that.
But I am deeply troubled by the growing tendency (made ever so visible and cancerous by social media) to blast those who differ with said views. To characterize our detractors as all sorts of vile labels.
All in the name of Christ.


Recent events and subsequent reactions made me think about this passage- Joshua 5:13-15


 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.


In our fervor for elevating our "side" to the #1 position, perhaps we should consider the position of the Commander of the Army of the Lord...the pre-incarnate Christ.  That is the fact that all people on all sides of all issues are sinners in need of a Savior.  He is not concerned about the positions of our sides but rather that we need saving. 


I can be firmly convinced that my convictions are right....and still respect those with differing views who feel just as strongly. Truth be told, we don't know what God's stand is on some things.  Some social issues and doctrinal tenets and denominational divides.  I know we think we do, but lots of times we just might be really wrong. Instead of railing against those on the "other side", I want instead to reach out with the Gospel  Rather than blasting my "opponents", I hope to build a bridge that they can walk across to the Savior.  The unbelievers and my brothers and sisters in Christ.  The only truth I can stake my life on is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

And certainly we would do well to respond as Joshua did, when confronted with the truth that Christ presents - to be unconcerned with "our side" and instead worship Christ.






Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest post - Bondage

Today  I want to introduce you to my friend Irene.  She wrote a book (I think that is so cool!) that was just released.  After being burdened by seeing fellow believers be so careless about what they put into their minds, Irene sat down at the computer and downloaded her heart.  Nothing Gray about It was the result.


Take a read of this piece she wrote for Living Letters and I think you'll see not only why I love her, admire her, and am grateful for her presence in my life but also why I highly recommend her book.
She has graciously agreed to let me give away 3 free copies of her book to the first three women who email me privately at chamfam@bellsouth.net.  Someone you know (maybe even yourself!) would greatly benefit from this book.  Contact me and the first three gals will land a copy.


Here's Irene....

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's not your faut...but you can fix it

Are you in conflict with someone right now?


Maybe it's your teenager.  Or your co-worker.  Somebody at church or in the neighborhood.


Maybe it's your spouse.


Ask yourself some questions about that...


What bothers you about that person?
What is the source of the angst between you?
What would you like to change about this relationship/that person?
Do you think things can get better?


This isn't a post about changing the other person to make this better.
And it's not a post about changing yourself.


This is a post about the problem.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day.


To all the women who are physical or spiritual Moms.


In all the stages of motherhood.


Thank you.
Bless you.


Don't quit.


Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Just keep sowing

It is my privilege to have my toe in several different life circles, simultaneously.  From my vantage points, I get to observe the varying pressures, comforts, fears, joys and demands of lots of stages of life. 


I have come to one conclusion.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My first couple of rodeos - 27 lessons I hoped I had taught

In my earlier post about graduation, I explained how I could anticipate the pain of a child leaving home.  I've done it twice already --- this ain't my first rodeo. 


That got me to thinking about what it felt like those first two times.  Some of the same feelings.  Some different. 

Thought I'd share about those...


Both my first two are girls.  I didn't realize the difference that made until I observed the difference in Paul's response to our son's leaving.  There's something about when the departing child is the same gender.  The anticipatory feelings of loss are the same...but the anxiety about their preparation is a bit different.  When a daughter leaves, the Mom feels responsible for her readiness to face the world.  Apparently, it's the same for sons and Dads.


So when each of my girls left, I felt a sense of panic, actually.  Were they equipped to be women?  Had I trained them adequately? Would they make wise choices?  And if they made wrong ones, could they rebound successfully? And, since I had been primarily responsible for their academic education, I can promise you I fretted about that, too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Getting First Place

A very dear friend asked me to write a letter to her graduating senior.  It was pure joy to sit down and pen a note to this young adult that I love tremendously.  It was sweet to think about the past we've shared, fun to think about her right now, and very exciting to ponder her future.


But I wanted to send her on her way with something more than memories of good times and anticipation of what lies in store for her.


Last year, about this time, my heart spilled out 12 things for graduates to know.  You can read those here   http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2014/05/twelve-tips-for-graduates.html


They still hold true.


But for  McKenzie, and for the rest of the young adults I know who will be closing one chapter of their lives and picking up their pen to begin another...what do I want to say today?

Friday, April 24, 2015

To the Mommy with the screaming kids at Wal-Mart

I'll bet you wished you could've disappeared into thin air.  Or screamed back at the littles.  Or at least pretended that you were their nanny and none of this was your fault.


But there you were, with all the eyes upon you.  The littlest little was really having a hard time.  He didn't want to be in that cart and it was your will against his.  The bigger little was quite busy lecturing him and telling you every error her brother had committed (gotta love those older sibs!).  And he was having none of it.


I didn't stand around to glare like a couple of self-righteous looking middle aged spinsters (I can promise you those two have never had children - or else they are suffering so severely from early onset dementia that they have clearly forgotten what it feels like to be in your place!).  I didn't want to humiliate you further with the realization that yet another person was witnessing the meltdown.


So I am hoping and praying that this message will waft across cyberspace somehow and write itself onto your heart.


Here's what I want to say...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In honor of the GSU students we lost this week

Over the next few days, five Georgia families will have to walk through the frightful valley that every parent recoils from...they will have to bury a child.  Every Mama in Georgia - maybe even across the whole nation - grieves with them.  There are simply no words to convey the depth of this tragedy.


I don't know these girls.  Only a small connection to a couple of these families.  All I know is that they were training to be nurses, to be one who gives aid to hurting, to promote healing and wholeness.  They were becoming what they were called to be.


And now, in the blink of an eye, they are gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Overcomers? The problem with the American Dream

 And they overcame him  (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Revelation 12:11


I don't usually do posts like this.  Most of the time, I focus on encouragement.  Loving others.  Trusting God in daily struggles.  Raising kids.


Today I am compelled to be a bit more intense.  Perhaps controversial.  Maybe even offensive.
So read at your own risk.  If I offend you, I am sorry.  Well, maybe.


But I am sickened by how most of us Christians live.  Including me.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Father's Eyes

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.



I've always been told that I have my Daddy's eyes.  Clear blue.  Squinting nearly closed when I laugh. Piercing when I am focused. Revealing my heart...always.




My Daddy's eyes are dimming now but they are still, as forever, looking out for me.  "Be careful," he calls, when I tell him I am heading to the store.  "Do you need some help unloading?" upon my return.  And, every day, several times a day, "Are all the babies OK?"  (And I know he means especially baby girl Mary Alice).



Protective .  Helpful .  Compassionate .  My father's eyes.


My Father's eyes.




What does it mean that His eye is upon me?


 I think first that it means He protects me. Just like my earthly Daddy is always interested in my protection. And like when I tell Chip to keep an eye out for his baby sister. I want him to take care of her. Make sure she's safe. And secure. Especially in unfamiliar surroundings.
Unlike earthly protection, though, my Heavenly Father is omnipotent and omniscient. He is capable beyond any earthly power and He knows my needs for security and defense far more than I know myself.  He is my shield and protector and no one and no circumstance can touch me without the express consent of His sovereign loving eye.  Ever.


My Father's eye upon me also means that He is there to help me.  Yes, to instruct and to guide but also to help me go in the way I should.  Help to do the right things.  Help to carry the loads He assigns.  Help to turn away from the ways I should NOT go. In the same way that my Daddy is continually looking for ways to help me...and yet with Divine Power and Knowledge and Love.
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:6)  Because He has His eye upon me, His omniscient, omnipotent, loving eye, I do not worry about my life.  Not my people, nor my to do list, nor my needs.  He is my helper.
   Consider these two passages: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) and 2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him
WOW!  Aren't those so very powerful?  He is right there - present - in my troubles, ready to help, able to help, longing to help.  And on top of that, He is always looking for ways to show Himself strong on my behalf!  Unfathomable!


My favorite thoughts about what it means for my Father's eye to be upon me is the same favorite I have about my Daddy.  Compassion.  My Daddy...and my Heavenly Abba...care what happens to me. The matters of my heart matter to them both.
Zechariah 2:8 puts it this way - for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye.
The apple of His eye.  Connoting tenderness, affection, being cherished.
Now neither my earthly Father nor my Heavenly One have favorites....but amazingly they are able to make each child feel as though they are.  Cherished.  Treasured.  Held dear.
And, just like my reaction when something pokes the center of my own eye, if something...or someone...does me harm, my Father rapidly and powerfully responds to remove the offender, to soothe the hurt, and to prevent recurrence.  I'm the apple of His eye.


One last thing. 


In the context of this verse, I wonder if there is another layer of meaning.  Something additional the psalmist wants to convey.  He speaks of the Lord teaching us, instructing us, guiding us in the way to go.
Maybe, just maybe, He is telling us that we will know what to do, where to go, how to be, by watching our Father's eyes.  Just like a quarterback can telegraph a pass by looking at his intended receiver, maybe we can discern what God wants us to do by looking at what His eyes are focused on.
What situation needs our attention.  What wrong needs to be made right.  What person needs our concern.
Watch His eyes.
Then go towards what He has set them on.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

It's time for graduation...and I'm glad!

It's April.  The graduation announcements will soon be arriving in the mail.  Mortar boards are being decorated.  Ceremonies are being planned.  College decisions are finalizing.  And I'm glad.


This year I have one in the mix.  He's finishing up his Senior year, agreeing to room with a stranger, and committing to spend the next four years in the library (right???).  And I'm glad.


As I ponder his future, reminisce about his past, and appreciate his present, I am really glad.


For a lot of things.



I am glad that we taught him how to clean the kitchen, to mow the lawn, and to take out the trash with excellence.
...and I'm glad that we didn't demand perfection.


I am glad that we held the bar high on academics and expected the best he could do
...and I'm glad that we shared our own failures freely so he could learn to give himself grace.


I am glad we chose an unconventional path for his education.
...and I am glad he was included in making that choice.


I am glad we insisted on obedience early on.
...and I am glad for the grace to adjust our expectations when necessary.


I am glad I got to raise at least one man-child and for the mutual influence he and his sisters have had on one another.
...and I am glad for all the guy friends that God placed in  his life to offset the estrogen he lived with at home!




I am glad we were blessed with the means for me to stay home and still afford music lessons and sports activities and some fun family trips.
...and I am glad we could NOT afford everything they wanted to do so they worked to make up the difference.


Yeah, I'm glad alright.


Except that he's leaving.


  This ain't my first rodeo and I know that, come August, the only times I will ever see him is with a suitcase in his hand.  I know that, although life doesn't end when your kid leaves for college, it sho nuf does change. 


And I've liked it just fine the way it's been, thank you very much.


I am well aware of all the NOT glad moments that await me...
 - for the times I'll start to cook  oatmeal scones and wish he were there to eat his favorite breakfast.       
 - for needing to set the table for three instead of four...or five...or six.
 - that the laundry will have far fewer sweaty socks to wash.
 - that the door won't bang every day and a deep male voice won't yell "Mom! What's for lunch?"
 - that I'll be able to get a lot more sleep because there won't be a lanky 6-footer on my sofa wanting to discuss theology and chemistry and girls way into the night
- that there will be fewer chances for hugs and impromptu trips to Academy Sports and cheers  for four fingers above the rim
-for all the times I'll want to share a funny story or ask a question on doctrine or feed him a piece of pecan pie fresh out of the oven only to remember he's not downstairs studying calculus or upstairs strumming his guitar or outside bouncing the basketball.
-for the times I look into the eyes of his Dad and his sister and his dog and realize they are aching for his presence, too.  Those are awfully poignant "not glad" moments.
For sure.


I'm glad he is equipped for this grand adventure called college...because he is equipped for the demands of life.  Not because his parents have done such a great job but rather because he's been so teachable, so determined to learn, so willing to grow. And especially glad that God's grace is abundant and He supplies what is needed to raise my kids well


No, it's not my first rodeo.  So, even though I recoil in anticipation of that familiar pain, I am comforted by the assurance that our "new normal" will bring joy, too.  And I can even be glad for the "not glad" moments because I know their presence over his absence mean we have loved well.  The depth of the "not glad" moments are evidence that the "glad" ones were indeed intense.
For that, I am very glad.


So, if you see me tearing up at the meat counter at Publix as I contemplate the need for a smaller sized roast, don't feel sorry for me.  Just know I'll be experiencing one of those "not glad" moments that are the price tag we pay for all those other "glad" ones.


In case you're wondering, I sure am glad we paid that price.  It's been worth that...and a whole lot more.








.




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Y'all come on in!

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling  I Peter 4:9


This Scriptural command is an easy one to obey.


At least for us Southerners, right?


Doesn't this evoke images of a tastefully decorated home, an exquisite menu, and a beautifully dressed woman with manicured nails?


In a word - NO.


I don't think that's what Scripture means. At all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Talking to myself

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.


Psalm 19:14
 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Defining moments

I knew from my knee jerk reaction to the email that my struggle wasn't over.  That from time to time I would experience setbacks in my quest for wholeness and soul health.


I clung to the hope that, at the very least, some progress had been made.


It was a sweet email.  Sent for the pure reason of encouragement.


The email wasn't the problem.


My acceptance of it was.


This dear friend, in thanking me for being a listening ear said "You are one of the kindest people I know.  I am so glad we are friends".


How could that do anything but encourage me?


Because deep in my soul the response came - "She doesn't really know me.  If she did, she wouldn't feel that way"


Because of a defining moment from many years ago.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Handling Disappointment

A series of disappointments that felt like setbacks piled on top of one another in my life recently.  Nothing unbearably grievous but discouraging and painful nonetheless.  I found myself waiting for the tide to turn and things to "balance themselves out".  For some affirmative answers to prayers instead of the no's and even wait's that kept coming.


Another disappointment showed up instead.


How do you handle the curveballs of life?  Do you get angry?  Do you try harder?  Do you give up?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Follow the Leader

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1




A few years ago, a sweet and generous friend invited my kids and me to spend a few days with her and hers at her beach house.  Being at the beach is my happy place so, of course, I leapt at the chance.
Because of an earlier commitment, I couldn't leave at the same time as my friend.  In spite of my notoriety as being directionally challenged and having to depart waaaaay later than wise for the 6 hour drive, I was determined to join her.  So I said yes yes yes and figured it would all work out.


Being the wise and compassionate friend that she is, she was not content to leave me to my senses.  She took her husband's mobile GPS system, made sure it was programmed for their favorite route, and insisted I use it to get there.


She's a gem.  For sure.


I packed up my two youngest as well as a buddy for my very youngest and set out long after dark.  I don't like to drive unfamiliar routes in the dark.  And especially not in the pouring rain.  But I plugged that system in and focused only on its instructions.  Turns out, there are several ways to reach this place.  And a few tricky, unclear turns to make.  But with this handy-dandy device, I was able to follow the tried and true route without mishap.  I felt more confident and a lot less worried than if I had had to navigate the journey with just my instincts.


Not once did I consider it arrogant or presumptuous of my generous friend to suggest I use her pre-programmed GPS.  Not once did I think of declining her offer and just winging it.  Not once did I presume to be better off on my own.


Instead, I was immensely grateful and fastidious to follow it precisely.


I knew she'd been there a hundred times before and she knew the best way.  Even if it wasn't easy in the dark with rain pouring and three other lives depending on my ability to stay out of the ditch, I knew I could make it if I just followed the instructions.  Since I couldn't follow her car directly, I could instead follow the path she laid out for me.


She showed tremendous compassion and concern to see to it I had a path to follow.


Why, then, are we so reluctant to do the same in life?  Instead of telling someone a season or so behind us "just follow me, I can help you get there", we get down in the ditch with them and agree that it's a hard place to be.  In an effort to maintain humility, we parade all our failures, whine about our woes, and insist everything is just impossible.  I remember as a young follower of Christ, I wanted a role model with skin on.  I wanted someone that I could watch and trust enough to emulate.  I didn't expect (or even want) perfection - just someone that would say - "you can imitate me because I am imitating Christ". Someone willing to be scrutinized...because they weren't afraid of what would be found.  Someone willing to be examined because their reputation was of no concern - only Christ's.  Someone willing to be followed because they were willing to follow The One.


I found some "someone's" like that.  They didn't see themselves as worthy of emulation but they were "programmed" to reach their destination just like that GPS.  And I listened to their instructions, I watched the screens of their lives, and I imitated what was there.


I am forever grateful for those people. 


Granted, it's hard to be a "human GPS".  We're liable to make a wrong turn or project an ETA incorrectly.  And that might cause some angst to whomever is watching our screen.  But just as Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne, in that classic children's favorite, worked harder and faster because people came to watch, maybe the same will be true of us.  Maybe just knowing that someone else is imitating us, we'll be more careful to imitate Christ...instead of expecting to be excused for laziness or error or stumbles.


I still need those people in my life.


And I need to be one of those people so that someone else can follow me.


And then someone else can imitate them.


And then someone else...and then someone else...


And when we look up ahead, instead of "someone", we will see The One. 


And He'll get us across that finish line.


Will you say with me,


Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ



??

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Choices....and Consequences

There's lots of buzzing going on about "choices".  What choices are good, which ones are right, what should or shouldn't be.  I hear passionate insistence about the right to have the freedom to choose.


Goodness knows I am all for freedom.


It's just that I've come to a conclusion about the root of the debate.


It's about freedom all right.
But.....
We aren't clamoring about freedom to choose.  We want freedom from consequences.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Treasures of truth for the Mommies

This past week brought several opportunities to remember the early years of motherhood.  A tantrum at CVS (by a toddler - not by one of my pharmacists!) A weekend with my (perfect) grandchildren. And an unfortunate mishap most likely brought on by sleep-deprived distraction.


As I watched the power struggles and the infinitesimal patience required and the apparent self-doubt, I recalled a verse.  The last part of one, actually, that has ministered grace and encouragement and hope to my fragile soul ----especially during the early years of motherhood.


He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.


Isaiah 40:11


He gently leads those that have young.


I still remember the first time I encountered that verse.  Or at least the first time it leapt off the pages to pour water on my parched and despairing heart.


I was in the fellowship hall of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta at some ladies event.  I hadn't wanted to go -- I was tired to the point of tears, lacking confidence to the point of pathetic, and pretty sure everybody else had read some book that I would never know the title of.  I only had two littles at the time and I was seated at a table with "the experts".  Mothers who smiled and had nail polish on and could actually string three words together in an intelligible sentence.  One of these women had SEVEN CHILDREN.  SEVEN!!!!!!!!  That's more hands than two parents have COMBINED!!  And they were all breathing, growing up well, and walking with Jesus, for crying out loud!  I wasn't even sure I could keep these two humans assigned to my heart alive, much less trained up in the fear and admonition of the Lord!  (Sometimes I figured they would likely have the fear part down but it would probably be fear of ME and not of God...) And sitting within arm's reach of me was a coherent, smiling, composed woman with SEVEN.


This verse was written on a card for the centerpiece.  I was pretty certain I'd never seen it before and wondered if it really was in the Bible.  So I asked the seven-children-super-Mom if it was, figuring she probably had all 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 31,173 verses memorized. And if it was, could it somehow help me cope?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Closing out James

We've spent a lot of Wednesday's Words with our friend James.  I hope you've fallen in love with God's Word through him...I especially hope that we've all learned to take the Truth he shares from the pew to the pavement of our lives.


"Saving faith" shows up in how we live. 


Or it's not "saving" us at all.


That's what James tells us.


Before we close out this epistle with the last two verses, let's take a brief power walk in review.


The theme of this entire book is succinctly spelled out in second chapter - v. 20 - "...faith without works is dead(useless)". 

We learned that James is not teaching salvation by works but rather demonstrating to us that genuine  faith results in works.


And he pens an entire letter explaining how.


Faith that works
1. Enables us to rejoice in trials because we have confidence that God is working all things for good
2. Drives us to the Throne for wisdom to know how to handle what comes our way
3. Reminds us that God only gives good gifts, regardless of what the packaging looks like to us
4. Transforms our hearts so that our personality becomes one that listens long and speaks short -- and is slow to get angry because we know that anger won't accomplish what we desire
5. Embraces God's Word, trusting it to conform us to the image of Christ
6. Takes responsibility to care for those who can't take care of themselves
7. Shows no favoritism in an attempt to gain personal benefit
8. Delights in showing mercy instead of judgment
9. Tames the tongue
10.Demonstrates wisdom in behavior of peace, gentleness, deference, and good works
11. Knows that our asking God to meet our desires works better than expecting others to do so
12. Results in humility because we see the truth about who we are in relation to Who He Is
13. Does not criticize a brother
14. Does not value riches nor trust in them
15. Suffers well
16. Prays in the midst of all circumstances


And, finally, the last two verses:
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.


What is James's last demonstration of faith that works?


The same as he's already suggested.


Love.


Just one more way that it manifests itself.


James closes his letter by urging us to love one another enough to feel responsibility for each other's spiritual wellbeing.  No, he's not condoning being a busybody but he is saying we are our brother's keeper.  And if one of us is straying, then the faith of the others should reach out to bring the one back.


That's not just James's idea.  Peter said the same thing. (I Peter 4:8)
And so did Solomon - Proverbs 10:12 - Love covers all transgressions.
So did Paul.  I Corinthians 13:13 - But now abide faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.


And so did Jesus.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets  Matthew 22:36-40


Amen.


Thanks, James.  Let's keep in touch.  I need your exhortation in my life.
Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To All the Single Ladies - a little perspective........

I find that this topic is always of interest, not only among women but also among the guys.
I've just never tackled it before.


But I'd like to offer some perspective on dating and singleness. In spite of feeling inadequate to address the subject, I think perhaps I should.  I think I'm qualified...


I am a female.


I've been single. (And I looked forward to being married from the age of, oh, about 4!)


I have three daughters above the age of 12.


I get to run in several circles with young adult women.


And...I have a husband and a son and a brother and their friends are friends of mine.


That said, I have some insight, some input, and some encouragement on the subject of singleness...and not remaining thus.

Some of the comments I hear frequently are "Where are all the good guys?  Why are all these great gals sitting at home on Saturday night? How am I ever going to get married if no one asks me out?"


I well remember some of the angst of singleness.  The loneliness, the self-doubt, the comparisons.  I wanted to be in a relationship and I wondered where all the good guys were. And why they weren't asking me out.  I remember the loooooong conversations with my sorority sisters - the ones who were at the house with me...wondering about the guys.


So I have some replies...for the gals. 

If the guys start asking me these questions, I'll figure out some replies for them.


Be forewarned - I may very well offend at least some of you. It's not my intent but it may happen.  So please accept my apology in advance.  My take on this matter may be a bit different than many "Christian viewpoints". 


Here goes...


1. SERVE. You were created with a nurturing spirit.  It is not only "normal" for you to long for a husband and family, it's good. But don't waste time waiting around for the next phase of life.  Invest in others NOW.  SERVE the Body of Christ where you are.  Nurture your nurturing spirit.  Develop the gifts that will make you a valuable wife and mother, should that time come.  But don't wait around and waste the gift of NOW.  In spite of how your heart feels, the goal of life is not marriage.  It's being conformed to the image of Christ.  It's enjoying your Heavenly Bridegroom and doing all you can to be sure your life brings honor to Him.
(Helpful hint - if you really want to prepare for marriage and motherhood, spend as much time as possible learning to cheerfully and willingly serve those who cannot repay you.  Seriously)


2.  RELAX.  The current climate that insists guys should be "intentional" with you and "only date in order to pursue marriage" may very well be what's keeping you home on Saturday night.  With all due respect to the need for guys to "man up" and not be passive about commitment, can't we find a happy medium somewhere??  Maybe not even all the way to the middle but just a wee bit towards the center place of "dating is how you get to know each other"??  I hear fellas getting a bad rep about being too afraid to ask girls out because they fear rejection.  Maybe that's true sometimes.  But I contend that it's also true that they fear hurting your feelings.  If they ask you out on a "casual date", they fear that it's likely you'll think it's much more.  If they don't ask you out for date #2, they are afraid you'll need counseling and if they DO ask you out a second time, they are afraid you will book the church!  Just relax. You really really really don't have to figure out if you should marry this guy before you accept Date #1.  Don't view males as potential husbands - instead see them as brothers in Christ that would be great to hang out with.  Period.


3.  "Give me a chance" goes both ways.
Girls often rightly feel that guys won't give them a chance (unless they look like Miss America and have Bible knowledge to rival Beth Moore).  And these gals ought to be given a chance.  I couldn't agree more. 
But, maybe, just maybe, gals are just as guilty?  How many times do fellas ask a girl out and get the response of "I'm not ready for a relationship", "You're a nice guy but just not my type", etc.??  Is it possible that the girls aren't giving the guys a chance?
Rest assured - it takes a lot of courage to ask a girl out.  Especially if the prevailing climate is one of "intentionality" and "guard the girl's heart" and "man up". So when/if the asking results in failure , well, he's probably not  inclined to repeat the process anytime soon.
So, while I am NOT saying "lower your standards", I AM saying
Be realistic.
Give grace.
Know that you can't always judge a book by its cover.


And see point #2 again.
Oh, and I love the criteria my church's college pastor gives his guys on how to decide whether to ask a girl out or not - if she carries an ESV study Bible and looks hot to you!!!  Girls, you can use the same standard when accepting a date.  You don't have to figure out if he's "the one" beforehand.


4.  Sort of related to point #3 - Appearance.
We females frequently complain that men care too much about what girls look like. And that it's not fair.
Maybe so.  Maybe not.
But if we are so bothered by that, why do we spend enormous amounts of our resources on hair and nails and clothes and makeup and thinness?  Are we just a little bit hypocritical???
Now, hear me out.  I am not about to tell you not to pay attention to your appearance.  (sighs of relief all around)  In fact, I am going to tell you that God wired men to value your appearance so you need to value it too.  Just don't make it your priority.  I Peter 3:3,4 instructs us to "let not your adornment be merely external - braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sigh of God". 


Do not criticize your brothers in Christ for valuing beauty in women.  God made them that way.  And He made you to not only have an interest in becoming beautiful but to also respond to a man's appreciation of your beauty.  Even my 14 month old granddaughter knows how to twirl her tutu for her Daddy!


Yes, I know I should exhort you to focus on your inner beauty.  So, consider yourself exhorted.


But, as my Mama says, if the barn needs painting...Paint the barn.


5.  But about that inner beauty...
We women have more than a desire to be beautiful.  We long to be cherished. God wired us that way! But instead of wagging our fingers at the men and demand that they cherish us, maybe what we need to do is to
Be cherish-able.  (Is that a word?)
You know what makes us UNcherish-able?
Stuff like sarcasm, cutting remarks, "joking" at someone else's expense. Cynical spirit.  Haughty attitudes (this means you think you know more and better than men - and it also means displaying your superiority even if it's legit).  Having to have the last word.  Pouting.  And coldness - ignoring people, having to be center stage, using the tongue to turn the atmosphere to ice. Being so "tough" as to be untouchable.
Guys notice, girlfriends.  Even if they never point it out to us, they notice.


They also notice the good stuff.
Like kindness.  Plain, old-fashioned kindness.  ALL personality types can be kind.  (Or not) You don't have to be syrupy sweet if that's not your temperament but kindness is always appropriate.
Friendliness.  There will never be a person who doesn't need befriending.
Gentleness.  In an age of "tough people" and direct approaches, I fear we have lost the art of gentleness.  I am not talking about weakness - I just mean gentleness instead of harshness.
Tenderness combined with strength.  We seem to swing to such extremes - either we are so stinking independent that guys figure we don't need them or we are so disgustingly needy that they are repelled.  Being cherish-able means we are vulnerable yet tenacious.  Capable yet receptive. Confident yet soft.


6.  Your  date is not your dad.
Some of you have a lot of pain in your relationship with your Dad.  He might have betrayed your trust or neglected you or failed to live up to God's calling on his life.  And the scars on your heart make you hesitant, even fearful, when it comes to male relationships.  Understandably, you feel the need to protect yourself from further pain.
 I know gals with this story. My heart aches with theirs. My own story and that of my girls couldn't possibly be farther from this  - we've had the best.  And I wish everyone else could, too. 
If your story is one of pain, I urge you to seek some help for healing.  I believe with everything in me that God longs to heal this deepest hole in your heart and to walk beside you in moving forwards toward a healthy male relationship.
As you do, let me gently encourage you to not treat fellas as though they will inevitably let you down.  Guard your heart, yes, but don't expect them to fail you and then punish them if they do.
I know there is great hurt.  But I believe in great healing.  And I'm praying for you!


For you gals like me with a sweet story of father-daughter ties, you, too, must remember that "your date is not your dad".  It is not his job to treat you like a fragile princess nor to make all your dreams come true, nor to protect you from every possible discomfort (including a broken heart -- your feelings are YOUR responsibility!).  It's his job to follow God with his whole heart and treat you with respect.  If it winds up that God brings you together for life, then it's YOUR job to adjust your life to his, to serve him cheerfully and willingly, and to see to it that you respect him because of his position (and God's command!).  Don't worry your pretty little head about what he is supposed to do - that's between him and God.  (So if you have some complaints in that department, take it up with God.  Not hubby.  You're welcome)


Oh, and one more thing.


7. They really like to do the pursuing part.  You can encourage them by being receptive and cheerfully responsive but don't try and move things along at an accelerated pace because they are taking too long. AND don't make yourself so available that they don't have to work hard to win you.  They actually want the thrill of the chase and the sweet rewards of triumph.  Don't cheat them out of it.


Girlfriends, I am PRO marriage.  A good part of my calling is to help women insure theirs survives. I love fairytale endings and I wish everyone could marry Prince Charming and live like Cinderella for the rest of the days.  I know that's unrealistic and most likely unBiblical :)  But I do think God wants our marriages to not only survive but especially thrive.  Because it's the picture He gives the world of His relationship with us.  He takes marriage very seriously.


So it stands to reason that He takes dating very seriously too.


But I don't think He intends to take all the fun out of it, either!!!


I'd love to hear from you.  Single ladies, married women, even the guys you dared to share this post with.  What do YOU think?









James on Prayer

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
James 5:13-18


This passage is chock full of spiritual truth - and application.  Here are some things I see in here: