Monthly Archives: May 2015

GLORY BUMPS

photo-1432757221830-ad504a69f685Sometimes my heart grieves so deeply I think it will burst. But then His joy floods my soul with a peace that passes understanding. And that peace becomes my dwelling place. But every once in awhile, the God of Glory shows up and manifests His presence and power in my life in a way that gives me what I can only describe as “Glory Bumps.” In the presence of God, His Spirit presses so upon me that there is a physical awareness of Him. For example:

* The day the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and need of a Savior, and I submitted my heart and life to Him and accepted His gift of salvation. That day my knowledge of God moved from my head and opened the door of my heart so He could move in and dwell with me.

* When I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand a passage and He wakes me in the middle of the night to show me truth.

* When God opens the door for me to witness to someone.  He brings them to my door and I am able to introduce them to my Savior.

* The moment God took my child home to be with Him, His Spirit told me He was doing so–and I felt peace.

The last two nights I’ve felt those glory bumps again. I was teaching my small groups and He was obviously in our midst. They sat on the edge of their seats, they were furiously taking notes. Suddenly, joy spread over one face, tears flowed down the cheek of another sister, as each one saw Him. Oh, let His glory shine down.

In reflecting on these times, there is one commonality. I was in His presence. There is an awe and reverence that comes only by being in the presence of Deity.

Don’t miss the glory bumps. . .get in His presence today.

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HELP! I’m Lost in the fog again.

unsplash_52cee67a5c618_1Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your to-do list that you can’t even see what needs to be done next. It’s like the fog has dropped down around you and you can’t see the road any more. You just want to sit in the middle of the floor and cry? Well, that’s where I am. Unfortunately, when my to do list becomes longer than anything I can accomplish I start “sharing” the burden with others in my household. And they aren’t overjoyed at being recruited into my “get it all done” army. So instead of getting the help I need I end up with stress and strained relationships.

We are in the middle of a move. Deadlines for house photographers and an open house are looming and my project list keeps getting longer rather than shorter. My husband has not been well and is unable to help, so all the burden falls on my shoulders. Let’s just say that this is the formula for a serious meltdown in my world. Fortunately, this time I decided to forego my usual meltdown tactics (ok, so I started down that path and realized it was not going to be pretty and took a time out. Yes, I had to put myself in the corner for a little time out). I called a family meeting and outlined where I was and what had to be done and why. My husband got on the phone and called in professionals to help me get it done. Jason took a long list of things away from me and said, “I’ve got all this.” It’s amazing how much better it is to calmly and sanely lay out the issue and ask for solutions than to let my frustrations spill out on everyone around me. Surely the rest of you have never had this problem, but us achievement oriented people have some serious meltdown issues when our list is longer than our time or capacity.

So what’s your meltdown point? It’s different for each of us because we have all placed expectations on ourselves that we just can’t always make happen. For example, a Hollywood actress may feel she has to remain young and beautiful to be viable so the least little wrinkle sends her straight into the plastic surgeon’s office. Those who have the gift of helping others can take on so many projects that they become overwhelmed and often feel under-appreciated, which can manifest itself as bitterness. Those who are introverts may feel no one is listening to them, so they feel like exploding. The perfectionist sees so many flaws they struggle to see beauty. Who are you? What brings the fog into your life that restricts your vision of reality? When do you need to put yourself in a corner and take a time out so the fog can clear?

As the saying goes, before you can receive help, you have to know you have a problem. In our own self righteousness we can tell ourselves that we are doing all the right things, have good motives and feel very justified. In truth, we need to STOP and see ourselves honestly. We need to understand the things that push us over the limit/create our personal fog where the only thing we see is our problems. Knowing yourself gives you a chance to choose a different path or reaction when confronted with a pressure trigger. How about your home? Do you need to take some fog/pressure out of your home by changing yourself. Take it from me, you won’t be able to change anyone else.

In Philippians 2, Paul tells those at Philippi that  he is sending Epaphroditus shortly, and eventually Timothy, to them. He describes the character of these men who would do anything to help those around them (Boy, I could sure use them at my house this week). Paul even goes so far as to say he can trust Timothy to look after their interests and the interests of the Lord/ministry. And he commended Epaphroditus as someone who literally put his life in danger to help him. Paul goes so far as to say Timothy isn’t like everyone else for most people only look after their own interests.  OUCH!

It’s amazing to see that a little shift in my perspective from looking out for my interests, to looking at the issues those in my household are facing, changes my attitude, expectations, approach and success. But the changed results had to come first from a change in me.

Lord, help me to be more like Timothy and Ephaproditus. I want to be someone you and others can trust to be more concerned about their interests than about my own. Lord, this is going to take some humbling. I will try to humble myself so you don’t have to humble me. Thank you for loving me when I’m a mess and for continuing to work on me. (And if Timothy isn’t too busy helping those in Philippi, do you suppose you could send him my way?)

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SWEET REVENGE–WARNING! DANGER!

photo-1414604582943-2fd913b3cb17Revenge–probably one of the most dangerous words in our language. It should come with a warning sign that there is danger ahead. But somewhere deep in each of our hearts, when we have been wronged, there is this little voice that tells us that revenge would be sweet–taste good to our soul. They hurt us–they should experience hurt, too. It becomes more about getting back at them than about evening the score. And we don’t mind upping the stakes a little bit more. Where does this mentality come from? In the Old Testament, under the law, the teaching was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. This was one of the earliest forms of social justice. Jesus addressed this attitude head on in Matthew 5:38-48 in the Sermon on the Mount. He addressed the law and changed the game: He suggested we turn the other cheek and actually love our enemies. Now I have to tell  you straight up this is hard to do. The only way I’ve ever been able to deal with hurt and my desire for revenge is on my knees before the Lord. I have to take the time to get close to His heart and to begin praying for a change in their hearts.

Christ came to fulfill the law. He came to teach us that actions were the outward manifestations of the inward state of the heart. He teaches us to nurture love and forgiveness, even to our enemies. WHY? Doesn’t He know it is hard to love your enemies, to turn the other cheek? And who wants to pray for someone that just did you wrong? (I’m thinking he doesn’t want us to pray they’ll be hit by a bus on their way home this evening.) So why would He ask this of us? That eye for an eye thing sounds more realistic.

The answer is simple. In our flesh we can all carry out that sweet revenge thing with gusto. But laying down our rights and taking up His cross so that we might manifest love to those who have wronged us. . .well, this is when we get to showcase His life and love living through us. You see, He loved us when we were enemies of the cross; He loved us so much even then, He gave His life for us. He asks us to now forgive to the same measure we have been forgiven. Maybe you are saint, but it seems I’ve been forgiven much. The Lord taught us to pray for forgiveness even as we have forgiven others. Basically He is saying, when we stand before Him and we have a pile of transgressions we have committed and we are seeking His forgiveness, He is going to ask for a list of all the transgressions against us and He is going to forgive us to the same measure we have forgiven others. Now I don’t know about you, but this means I’ve got some big time forgiving to do. In fact, I probably need a lot more people to do me wrong so I can rise above and shower forgiveness on them just so I can lay up some points against that day.

So why are you holding on to grievances?
So why don’t you just lay them down and RUN TO FORGIVENESS?

God said vengeance is His; He will repay. Why does He say He will hold the vengeance card and not pass it over to us? It’s simple–He sees heart motive. Have you ever done something stupid? In your haste have you listened to a critical voice against someone else that swayed your thinking? Have you ever made an assumption about something or someone and you hurt another person? You see, God sees your heart and its motivation; He also see their heart and their motivation. The question on the table is whether the offending action was done in haste or ignorance or was it done maliciously, with revenge. God is judging the other person’s action. . .but He’s also judging your actions. If revenge is your motivation, look out–Danger ahead. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word vengeance has it’s root meaning in punishment. Look out. This is not your work; justice/punishment belong only. . .ONLY. . .to God.

I love that David refused to exact vengeance on Saul even though he was seeking to kill him. David respected the office Saul held as one given by God. And even though he had already been anointed as the next King of Israel, he did not assume to take vengeance on his enemy because he feared God. If revenge is weighing heavy on your heart, it’s time to get down on your knees and let the God of the Universe take your hurts. He will deal with them but first, He wants to forgive you and heal you. And you can trust Him to deal with those that have hurt you as well. Maybe He will zap them from the sky and that bus will hit them after all. But maybe, because of your love, He will soften and change their hearts–even toward you. You see, if they get hit by that bus you’ve dreamed of, it’s going to make a mess. But if their heart changes, you might just find a dear friend. They might be able to help you share God’s light to a fallen world.

Time to hand it all over to God–He’s the ONLY ONE that can change hearts. It’s the only way you’ll find PEACE. And peace is so much sweeter than revenge.

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REJECTION–IT HURTS

Vgu1RUfKT3WN1ZYxSWaR_14672519443_13d8873062_kREJECTION. It can be something as simple as an idea or as complicated as the rejection of a dearly loved one–regardless, when you experience rejection, it hurts. Wikipedia describes rejection as a verb, as in “to throw back.” When fishing with my husband, he will often catch a fish that he decides is not something he wants to keep, clean or cook. So, he throws it back into the water. In essence, this is what rejection feels like–you’ve not measured up in some way and have been thrown back. In most cases we internalize rejection as being thrown away–determined to be unsuitable. In social circles, rejection is often manifested by excluding someone from the group. It’s hard to be the one left out. Your heart hears, “You are not good enough.” There are few of us on this earth that get by without feeling rejection from one source or another. Rejection can come from any direction or place, e.g., the rejection of playground playmates, a job or college application, parents, spouses, children, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. The deeper you love, the greater your dreams or expectations for the relationship, the more it is going to hurt.

I listened to a TED talk recently describing some of the research into the brain surrounding romantic love. It is visible in pictures of the brain. Romantic love triggers that obsessive need for another person. Interestingly enough, pictures of the brain of someone going through rejection show stimulation in that same part of the brain. Just as you cannot stop thinking about someone you are falling in love with, so rejection is similarly treated in the brain. You can become obsessive over the other person or situation, willing to do anything to regain approval, acceptance or love. Basically, it’s physical, your brain is driving your thoughts and the hurt you are experiencing. It’s real; it’s physical. In essence it will drive you to turn thoughts inward and place blame at your doorstep–you are unworthy. There is something wrong with you. And depression begins to surround you with its cloak.

So how do you get past rejection and the pain associated with it? It’s not easy. You have to take control of your brain. You have to stop remunerating thoughts (those thoughts that put you down; thoughts that you play over and over like a broken record). You have to intentionally replace those thoughts with positive thoughts. My guess is that there are many wonderful things in your life and many people who love you, care about you, and see you for who you are. But somehow the pain of rejection is clouding your real view of life. So together let’s find a way to move on.

1. Take an appropriate time to grieve. If this was a relationship you cherished, it is going to hurt. It is ok to cry. Find some time alone to inventory the good and bad of the relationship and to feel the loss of your dreams and expectations. Proverbs 3:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Your hope has been crushed. It’s normal to feel heart sick. But we don’t want this sickness to destroy us. Determine to take some medicine and to find a place of healing. Begin by comforting yourself with a walk through a park or garden, some comfort food, a bath with essential oils that uplift the spirit; e.g., lemon, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, cinnamon or peppermint. Remind yourself that you are worthy–besides, pampering feels good.

2. Talk to a friend–one trusted friend. This should be someone who cares about you but will tell you the truth. Stay off social media and avoid sharing your pain with others. Try not to put the offending party down. Having your friend agree that they are an ogre won’t help–you’ll both just wallow in ugly things. Focus your attention on your pain and their support in helping you find ways to heal.

3.  Accept the rejection. Whether it’s a rejection letter for a job, college application or manuscript you’ve submitted or the overwhelming loss of a significant relationship, step away from the rejection itself and analyze what you might do better next time. The only person you can change is yourself. Determine to learn from this situation and to improve your resume/application or to become a better person. Don’t beat yourself up, we all make mistakes. Some are costly mistakes, but we can take steps to correct our mistakes.

4. Don’t take rejection personally. This is the hardest step of all. It was personal-it hurt YOU. Unfortunately, relationships must be mutual. If you’ve received a rejection letter from a job application, it wasn’t that there is anything wrong with you–they simply found someone who better met their specific needs. If the rejection comes from a close friend or family member, it is probably more about something they are going through than anything to do with you. Pray for them. Show love and grace if given the opportunity. Trust God with the relationship. Maybe restoration will happen someday, but for now you need to let them process their feelings and wait. Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Maybe it’s your time to soar in another direction.

5. Don’t pile on. Don’t hoard your hurts and keep piling each rejection on top of the last. Everyone experiences rejection in some form or another. We aren’t entitled to a “yes” from every situation. This is just one rejection. Face just this one and move on. God does not pile our transgressions on top of each other and condemn us. He deals with each sin as we bring it before Him and then removes it and remembers it against us no more. You can’t live life to its fullest if you are burying yourself under every mistake or rejection. Use these circumstances as stepping stones to your bright future. Trust that God is leading you even in these times. He has a plan for an abundant life for you. Focus on finding it as you hold fast to His hand. (Jeremiah 29:11)

6. Don’t allow it to control your view of yourself or your future. Stop the tapes. Remind yourself of the wonderful person God created you to be. Focus on your gifts, talents, interests, skills, attributes, etc. that make you unique–for you were fearfully and wonderfully made. And when God made you, He said, “It is good.” Maybe you need to frame a list of all the good qualities/attributes that God gave to you–ask a friend to list what they see in you if you are blinded. Read the list daily until you remember who you are–who God made you to be.  

7. Focus on all the good in your life. It’s time to up your thanksgiving before the Lord. Make an inventory of all your blessings and read over them often. 

8. Determine to try again. This doesn’t mean you continue to hound that employer or a former lover or even a loved family member. It’s time to move in a different direction. So spiff up that resume, manuscript or wardrobe. Upgrade/update–and try again. You are a winner. You will win. Proverbs 11:30 says “When the desire comes-when the object of the longing is obtained-it is a tree of life.” So get out there and plant a few seeds and expect your tree to grow and blossom. There are so many hurting people in this big world who need love and care. Open your eyes to them. Luke 6:38 reminds us that if we give, it will be given unto us. So find someone on whom you can bestow grace, mercy and love and get ready for your own cup to overflow. 

9. Reach out for life. Matthew 6:34 encourages us to look to the future. You never know what God has for you just around the corner. So run to Him and let Him show you the path of life. Lean into hope.

10. Believe in yourself. You can do this. You will succeed. You will find happiness. You will experience love and acceptance. Time to try again.

It you are hurting from the sting of rejection, I want to pray for you before we part. “Oh, Father, you said that all that come to you, you will in no wise cast out. I praise you that in you we find acceptance, love and security. We belong. We are safe. We are secure. We are home. Comfort those who are reading these words and hurting today. Envelop them in your love and reassurance. Encourage them to find the right next step toward healing and give them the courage to take that step with you. In your precious and Holy name I pray. Amen.”

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SHHHH–Don’t Tell!

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When’s the last time God showed up and did something so phenomenal for, in and/or through you that you were totally beside yourself? He personally showed up in the midst of your story and, when things looked hopeless or impossible, He turned your water into wine. I’ll bet you couldn’t wait to tell others. God’s work in our lives is big news.

One year ago this week, I went to the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference at the Lifeway Conference Center near Asheville, NC. I didn’t have a clue about the publishing industry BUT GOD kept showing up at every turn, directing me even when I was lost on this campus spread over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tonight I will have the privilege of speaking to a group of Christian writers across the central Virginia region who will be attending this year’s conference. I know God is pleased with their desire to share their hearts for Him with others. And, I know their anxieties, doubts and fears as they set out on this journey. The publishing industry is daunting. It can be confusing and discouraging. Unless God is leading them, they’ll get lost. I pray they will be encouraged by my story. I know God is writing each of their stories and I can’t wait to hear what He will do in and through them at this year’s conference.

In Luke 5, Jesus healed a leper and told him to tell no man. I’ve often wondered about that. First of all, how do you keep something like that quiet? I mean–he was a leper and now he is healed. I’m thinking people will notice–just saying. Secondly, why would Jesus want to keep this quiet? Possibly it was because He didn’t want to have to deal with those who would question the source of His authority and power. They were becoming angry and sought to kill Him. Maybe He wanted to scoot out of town before the crowds gathered around Him. Let’s just say that His ability to heal the lame, sick, blind, lepers, etc. brought multitudes to Him and rattled the religious leaders and their control over the people. Despite Jesus’ admonition, the leper couldn’t keep quiet. In fact, all those Jesus healed couldn’t help but tell others about Him and His power.

When God shows up and heals you, provides for you, opens major doors you could never imagine swinging open–USES YOU–you are going to get excited and tell everyone that will listen. You see, it’s not about telling them that you are now whole, good or that something wonderful has happened to you. It’s not about you. It’s about the miracle and the Miracle Maker. When you see HIS POWER at work up close and personal in YOUR LIFE, you will be so astounded you’ll have to tell others. Oh, some will scoff. Others may think you are self-centered or prideful, etc. Why so negative in the face of a miracle? It’s simple, they are looking through Pharisaical eyes. When Paul met Christ on the Damascus Road and was commissioned to go and tell, nothing and no one slowed him down. Don’t let the naysayers quiet your exuberance for Him; keep on telling the Good News. The God of miracles is still in business today and He loves doing great and mighty things for you. Through God’s work in  your life and your passion for Him, some will hear, seek and praise Him. I praise God for calling and gifting men and women to write about Him.

Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

He has indeed done great things for me and tonight I’ll be sharing my story with my friends and together we’ll praise the One who sits on the throne. But, let me tell you a little secret. He wants to do great things for and through you, too. So don’t be envious or critical, draw ever closer to Him and learn of the great plans He has for your life.  Your story will be different than mine–it will be unique and special because it was written especially for YOU. It won’t be anything you had in mind or turn out like you planned, because His ways are not your ways. He wants to do things in a way that will astound you and give you a story to tell about Him and His amazing power and grace in your life. Don’t miss His plan for your life. Its going to be miraculous. So draw your heart’s chair right up close to Him and learn of Him and get ready to see the miracle. When you see Him and experience His moving and power in your life–YOU WILL TELL THE GOOD NEWS.

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Dance as if No One is Watching

photo-1422433555807-2559a27433bdMorning–it’s my time. My internal clock goes off at 6:00 a.m. no matter what time I go to bed. My eyes fly open and I’m awake for the day. Wide awake–don’t really even need coffee. Now the rest of the folks and pets in my house are night owls. They are up long after I go to bed each evening and are sleepyheads in the morning. They stumble out of bed about 9:00-10:00 and would prefer that no one speak to them until some time after noon. I’m so anxious for someone to get up and talk to me that I’ve been known to disrupt their time of solitude (which is met with the utmost resistance). This gives me hours. . . HOURS. . .of time to talk to God because frankly, He is the only one around who is willing to talk to me. I’m glad He gets up early.

If you videotaped this morning time, you’d see me spend quiet moments reading and studying on my chaise lounge and tender moments spent in prayer. But you’d also catch me dancing as if no one was watching. . .praising the Lord, singing and making melody in my heart. My heart and hands are lifted up to Him. I read a devotional recently that asked the question “Do we need to settle down?” I remember my mom giving me THE LOOK, which meant the next words out of her mouth were going to be, “Carol, settle down now.” Being a bit hyperactive she used this phrase a lot where I was concerned. As an adult I now get to choose if I want to settle down. Now I’m not talking about the settling down in marriage and having kids kind of settling down, I’m talking about the expectations placed on an adult. Should we abandon our child-like sense of wonder and joy? I think not. God tells us in Matthew 18 that we must come to Him as an innocent child. A child has an exuberance in relationships–they don’t hold back their hugs or words or joy. They openly share their thoughts and feelings. God wants that kind of relationship with us.

When my oldest granddaughter was about six years old, she was spending the day with me and came downstairs dressed as a princess, complete with a tiara. We have an open-concept floor plan and she was using the entire first floor as her stage. She was twirling and dancing with childlike abandon. I asked her who she was and what she was doing. She said, “I’m the princess and I’m dancing and singing.” I then asked her who I was, to which she retorted, “Oh, Nanny, you’re the queen.” Hesitantly I asked, “So what does the queen do?” She answered “Oh, you have to clean house.” Well, that struck my heart. When had I changed my princess tiara and childlike wonder for the queen’s crown complete with chains of responsibility? When had life become task oriented? Where had I lost my child-like abandon to just sing and dance and be joyful and exchanged it for work? Had the cares of life, bills, the responsibility of raising my four and the death of my daughter crowded out the joy of my life so that I was now simply working through each day? I determined that day I’d exchange my queen’s robes for a princess’ crown and I would dance and sing–I’d take a page out of Peter Pan’s book when he said, “I may have to grow older, but I’ll never grow up.”

Too many times we edit out joy, laughter, silliness, the urge to sing along to a favorite song or to express our praise because of what other’s might think–we’ve grown up and settled down. The good thing about being retired and aging is you care a whole lot less about what other people think and a whole lot more about what God thinks. And lately I’m finding that I am able to let my joy find expression in my actions. Psalms 47:1 “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” It’s not only OK to laugh and sing and dance and cheer and shout–this is a commandment. I think this is God’s cure for depression for I can’t help but laugh when I sing and dance.

Psalms 96:11-13 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

It’s ok to be joyful. After all, we serve a God of great joy. C. S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”  If we are going to spend eternity with joy in our hearts, I think it’s ok for us to taste a little of that freedom to rejoice here on earth. It’s called abundant living in Him.

May this day be a day of great joy because your God is rejoicing over you–Zephaniah 3:17 “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

So if you show up at my house early some morning and find me singing and dancing in my pj’s, it’s OK! God and I are just rejoicing over each other–there’s no need to settle down.

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When’s the Last Time you Told Your Mom she was BEAUTIFUL?

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I saw a video clip on Xfinity asking people on the street,”When’s the last time you told your mom she was beautiful?” There were pauses, ho’s and hum’s, as each one came up with the same answer, “Probably never.”

Years ago we were playing cards with another couple and our three boys and their three boys were playing together. Suddenly they burst into the kitchen and our card game. It seems a serious and somewhat heated dispute had arisen. Their sons thought their mom was the most beautiful. And my boys thought their mom was the most beautiful. Slightly embarrassed, we calmed the heated dispute and assured them that we were both beautiful. Secretly, it warmed my heart to think my little boys thought I was beautiful to them and were willing to fight for my title. It was the best feeling in the world. Had People Magazine plastered my picture on their cover declaring I was the most beautiful woman in the world, it couldn’t have held a candle to their love and admiration. My boys loved me (and I cherished them beyond measure).

Now as they aged, they forgot their passion for my beauty. Soon it was an embarrassment for mom to kiss them goodbye as I dropped them off at school. There would be no hugging in public, especially if their friends were present. Friends became their confidants instead of running to me with every trial (but apparently it was still cool to let me do all the laundry). Snuggles were replaced by rolling eyes. And the cute girls at school or down the street stole their hearts. Being a mom is hard. You fall head over heels in love with your little boy(s) only to watch them grow up and move away. I think it is the mom that should stand at the altar and give her son away at his wedding. This person you have cherished and nurtured, protected and loved like none other, leaves you behind and moves forward in their life with their bride.  You are no longer the most important person in their world. Now what?

But for a little while they held my hand and I held their heart. And it was good. I’m thankful for each of their brides who are great wives and moms, but I’ll always cherish the memory of the day when my boys were ready to fight for my title as the most beautiful.

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How Much Does a Vision Weigh?

QrXgXMhCSouyhU7idq7g_IMG_8402Many years ago I worked in a Christian school. This is the perfect place for a workaholic because with 600 students and all the things necessary to operate and enrich the facilities, programs and communications, there is just no end to the things that need to be done. And like most workaholic perfectionistic types, I dove in with both feet. One fall as we readied the school for opening day, I think I’d virtually worked around the clock for about ten days. I was exhausted beyond exhaustion. The worst part was that I was working late into the night ALONE. Where were all the parents? the faculty? the students? Surely there was someone that could help with some of this work. I reached out and told anyone that would listen of the work that needed to be done and how tired I was. They smiled, nodded and moved on. Not one person offered to help–not even ONE. So on Sunday afternoon before school opened the next morning I’d come to the end of my rope. I cried out “GOD HELP ME.” It wasn’t a fancy prayer with ten-dollar words; it was a prayer  of desperation from my heart to His heart.

I arrived a few minutes early for evening services and slipped into a seat. I was too exhausted to carry on a conversation. But standing around me the gals were all chattering about their great summer vacations. One girl had just returned from Disney World and she and her family had been treated to a behind-the-scenes tour. Now don’t quote me on these facts because it’s been more than a few years but the conversation went something like this: “Did you know that Walt Disney was probably one of the greatest communicators of all time? We learned that they built Disney World in ___days and they came in under budget and there wasn’t even one missed work day or injury on the job. In fact, everyone was singing while they worked. He simply shared his vision and provided them with tools and the license for them to create. The end result was that the park was more than they’d ever dreamed it could be.” Now I said something under my breath like, “Great, Lord. I ask you for help and can’t even get words to come out of my mouth that make sense right now. And your solution is that I have to sit here and listen to tales of their great vacation. This kind of help isn’t working for me.”

That night as I lay in bed, I tossed and turned and this woman’s story kept spinning in my head. I finally got up and took my pillow and blanket to the sofa. My conversation with God wasn’t flowery–but it was real and raw. “God! I’m exhausted! I asked you for help and I have to listen to stories about other’s vacations and now I am so tired I can’t even sleep. If you’ve got something to say, do so because I’ve got to get some rest.” I opened my Bible and began to read Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision; the people perish.” I sat straight up–what had that gal said about Walt Disney and vision? Well now I was wide awake and looking up verses on vision(s) listed in the concordance (this was before the internet). I had cried out to God and He heard me and orchestrated a lesson just for me.

You see, I’d been doing it all wrong. I thought if I told people about all the work that needed to be done, then they would help. Turns out no one needs more work. I got down on my knees and thanked God for helping me. I showed up the next day and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about why I work so hard. . .I had a vision of an amazing school for their children. And something strange began to  happen. As I’d share my vision with parents, teachers, students, alumni, etc., they began to come out of the wood work to help me. They would actually take vacation days from their jobs to come over and help me. I had so much help that it took all my time just making sure I had something for everyone to do. I took a page out of Walt’s book and shared my vision, provided them with tools and got out of their way and let them create. And it was amazing.

Several years later, one of my bosses met with me on my first day of work for him. He said, “Carol, this is my best piece of advice: ‘IF they write it; they’ll underwrite it.” And I’ve found that to be ever so true. Share the vision. Give them the tools and let them do it their way. Isn’t that what God did for us? He tells us there is a lost and dying world; the fields are white unto harvest; He tells us of the Kingdom He has prepared — His vision is that none should perish. And so we get to work sharing the Good News of the Kingdom.

You see, it was never about me and how tired I was and how much I need help. It’s about God’s work and God’s people and God’s way. People need vision or they will perish. They don’t need more work. Jesus tells us to cast our cares upon Him. He will carry our heavy loads. In exchange, He wants us to carry His burden–a vision of the Kingdom to the lost. Burdens are heavy. . .but Visions are light. Visions inspire. Visions compel. Visions draw others.

Bottom line, I just needed to get out of the way. I needed to simply share the vision and let others write it and underwrite it. Do you have a burden you’d like to give to God and exchange it for His vision.

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MY BUCKET LIST

photo-1420330454265-b682d57d0592I’m the first born–your typical Type A personality. I have got to be doing something all the time and it’s really great if I can multi-task. My husband is on the opposite end of this spectrum. He isn’t from another planet, he’s moved to an entirely different galaxy. Part of this is his personality but it has been enhanced because of a bum knee which means he is struggling to walk until we can get that knee replaced. He can put on headphones and listen to music and be lost for hours. He voraciously watches (or re-watches) movies or some series and gets so engrossed in them that he cannot hear me. There’s part of me that envies that ability to just relax and let go. If I sit down to watch something with him, I’ve got to be doing something–whether it is a crossword puzzle, editing a blog, working on a favorite craft project–SOMETHING. And apparently I’m never going to run out of things to do. I must confess to having checklists, with back up lists, just in case I should ever get to the bottom of my list. I’ve been guilty of putting completed projects on the list just so I can enjoy the satisfaction of checking them off the list. Let’s just say I’m a bonafide, card-carrying doer.

Now when it comes to serving the Lord, I bring this doer mentality. And I must confess I’ve taken working for the Lord to a level most will never achieve (hopefully). I’ve literally worn about every hat I’ve ever heard of in a church. Some fit me better than others, but at least each of them gave me lots to do. Could anyone give this Martha a high five. Surely God must be pleased that I do all this for Him (now my heart was always in the right place even if my theology wasn’t.) But praise God, He didn’t give up on me.  In recent years I’ve had recurring bouts with mononucleosis. Yes, I know you’re only supposed to be able to get it once. Let’s just say I’m not most people and specialists believe the Epstein Barr virus remains in your body forever. Fortunately for most, their immune system keeps the virus at bay. Apparently my immune system has taken a permanent sabbatical which leaves the door open for the mono to rear its ugly head periodically–experts label it chronic fatigue syndrome which is shorthand for ‘we don’t know what to do about that.’ My mom would tell you I burned my candle at both ends for all these years and now I am reaping my reward. So as I sit in my bed for weeks on end, I turn my eyes to to the Lord and say, “WHAT AM I TO DO NOW, LORD? What possible good can I be sitting at home in bed while all my friends are serving the Lord with our church’s weekend of community service called I-SERVE? Don’t you know I’d excel at something like that? I could have signed up for several things to do. Lord, what is it you want me to do?”

My approach has always been much like the disciples in the midst of the sea when the storm began to rage. The God of glory is definitely on board and I’ve seen Him work miracles, but when I get in the midst of a storm I have a memory lapse just like the disciples. You see, they had just witnessed him feed the 5,000, yet in the storm, they began to deal with the issue themselves–in their own strength. And like the disciples, I grab my small bucket and start bailing water–it’s what us doers DO. My prayers sound like the disciples as they woke Jesus–“Hey, can’t you see there’s a storm raging? Are you sure this is a good time for you to be taking a nap? What say you come join me in my bucket ministry and let’s get this water out of the boat.” And God says to my heart “My ways are not your ways.” And He calms the storm and the raging seas because its what POWER does. And I know He shakes His head at me and says, “Give up your bucket and tap into my power. You can do NOTHING of yourself. Oh, ye of little faith.” Let’s just say my bucket seems to have holes in the bottom of it lately so I turn my eyes to Him, questioning what He has in mind.

He is so faithful. He took me to John 6:29: “Jesus replied, ‘This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger).'” God wants me to rest in His ability to do. My WORK is to believe. My work is FAITH. My work is holding onto Him, trusting Him, relying on Him. I’ve never been good at this resting thing. I never saw it as WORK. But let me go on record as saying it is the hardest WORK imaginable for this card-carrying doer. There is a storm raging around me, the waters are swelling and threatening to sink my boat. But God has put me in a unique place where I have learned what it means to rest in Him. So I’ve decided to add FAITH into my time of resting. My quiet times have sharpened my focus on the One Who put the stars in place, and commands all things. My prayers are changing from “Come help me bail water” to “Lord, thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Just give me a front row seat to the demonstration of your power.” Now instead of getting up and tackling my bucket list for the day and fretting over the things I cannot control, I’m learning to take my seat by Mary at His feet. I lift my eyes to the Almighty One Who speaks and the winds and waves obey His voice. I wait for Him to speak–not only to my heart but the hearts of others. Because you see, the root issue for my (and your) problems is the need for heart changes. It’s work ONLY He can do. So I look to, wait on, trust and watch for Him to do His great work–it’s called FAITH.

FAITH–it’s increased in the trial, the storms of life. It’s hard work. But it’s the only way to actually accomplish anything. So Lord, here’s my bucket and all my lists. I don’t need them any more.

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