Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Church, Be Benny

My family is notorious for one liners leaving other people feeling awkward and confused. For that, I need to take a moment to apologize. You see, we love, love, love to laugh and more often than not that one liner from Blazing Saddles is the key to break the silence in any situation. And if you can join in, we will expand the dialogue to see how deeply you can engage as if there is some sort of test.
We even measure the quality of our teachers for our kids based upon when our girls can casually mention the question of weight ratio in class and get a grin out of their instructor. (For those of you who have failed to understand that comment, see me after class.) So as we are raising the next generation of unpaid comedy relief (you’re welcome), it is imperative that they are well schooled in the classics so they, too, can understand the rationale for our sudden guffaws in restaurants and social gatherings.

This summer our return to youth has involved some childhood books and films that gave definition to our present self. I have shared with you, dear friend, that my girls have already been exposed to Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail along with all of the Christmas classics including National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Christmas Story AND Elf. And yes, dear reader, there cannot be proper upbringing in our society without The Princess Bride as we all want our girls to find their dear Wesley and not Prince Humperdinck.

In June, we introduced them to Smalls, Squints, Porter, Ya-Ya and Benny. This time I watched with new goggles. You see, the first time I watched the Sandlot, my little girl mind grasped the idea of acceptance and camaraderie. That was the design, right? It is a coming of age movie that reminds us to befriend the new guy and be loyal to your pals.

Yet, this time I saw the subtle challenge of the newly blended family and the anxiety of the child in that environment. This time, I saw the lonely neighbor that everyone made up stories about because nobody was brave enough to just go knock on the door.

This time I saw the girl recognize the young man’s bravery as he made a fool of himself at the pool for her (remember Squints married Wendy Peppercorn in the end).
This time I saw a future unfold for a young man simply because of the company he keeps. Smalls became a sports writer. (Insert record scratch.) Do you remember his knowledge of sports at the beginning of that summer? That was not the career path he was pursuing before he moved to this new town. Yet, because of the Crew, he grew up to write stories about his best friend and heroes like him. His life changed and turned a literal corner that summer; all because some kids, dare I say even, one kid took the time to accept him and love on him. Benny changed the trajectory of Smalls’ future simply by being kind.

This type of impact is not limited to little boys playing pick-up baseball or any other sport. This impact transcends age, gender, socioeconomics, and ethnicity. Kindness shared without expectations is an overflow of the kindness that has been lavished upon us. We hoard it and share it with only those we deem worthy. Or only with those we feel will respect it. Or only with those we feel will pour back upon us. Think about it. You chose people on your team for Red Rover who you knew were strong enough to capture the other team. You chose people on your kickball team who were athletically inclined. You chose chemistry lab partners who would do the work…and maybe your’s too. You even choose churches based upon which popular other families attend there or what programs they can provide for your child.

Benny chose Smalls because he needed another kid to complete the team KNOWING that Smalls could give NOTHING in return. Benny extended kindness to teach Smalls how to play the game without hesitation to the time it was taking away from other activities. Benny gave Smalls his own glove and his own ball cap in order to help him be better equipped for the game and be more presentable to the competition. Benny dirtied up his own out-of-the-box pair of PF Flyers to sprint for his life in order to get Smalls’ ball back and keep him from being killed by his stepfather for losing the one-of-a-kind Babe Ruth signature baseball.

Who had you invited over for dinner in your circle of influence with nothing in return expected? The coworker that seems to feel left out? The neighbor that rarely comes out because they are timid or maybe even cranky? The waitress that you see every Tuesday at Taco Tuesday who is barely making ends meet. What can you do to show kindness with nothing expected in return?

Who have you showed how to bake brownies so they can make dessert for their mom and surprise her after a hard day? Who have you showed how to change a tire because their dad is not present to teach that simple lesson? Who have you thrown the ball with that might get nobody to show them how to stop side-arming? What can you do to show kindness by pouring out what has been poured into you?

Who have you given school clothes to that is hoping to even have enough to buy socks for the winter? Who have you extended your extra dishes to that might be eating off of box lids or straight from containers? Who’s gas have you paid for at the gas station without them knowing or drive through meal of the person behind you? What can you do to change the trajectory of someone’s success simply by removing a stumbling block?

When is the last time you sweated for someone else? When is the last time you lost sleep for someone else? When is the last time you cried with someone else? When is the last time you dirtied your PF Flyers for someone else?

If you are a follower of Christ, your cup is full. He filled it. He gave you the gift of eternal life and unconditional love. He calls you His own. He calls you royal and a prized possession. With that comes responsibility. With that full cup, it will overflow. Why would you not want the excess and abundance pouring into those who are lacking a full cup? Placing yourself in the proximity of those needing a taste of His grace and a witness to His love is your responsibility. Other believers do not need you to fill their cup. They are to seek His face for that restoration - for that refill.

If you are not a follower of Christ, you are seeking to fill your cup. You are. There is a void in all of us for which we pursue closure until we find His redeeming love or no longer run the race. So if you are seeking to find grace and mercy…if you are seeking to belong to something bigger than yourself…if you are seeking to find a place where you will be encouraged, equipped, educated, and accepted…seek no further. His mercy knows no end and His love renews freely. May you encounter an overflowing source of kindness today.

Church, be Benny.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Am I different? I don’t believe so. I do not feel that I stand out among others. I do not feel that I would be listed as among those who are not conformers to the world. I do not feel that I am above reproach most of the time. In fact, I feel mediocre and inept. Yet, that is not what God is truly saying to me. He is saying so much more and waiting on me to sit still long enough for him to whisper His truth into my ears, my heart, and my soul.

It takes that depth, friend. It takes that time. It takes that awkward silence. It takes that breathing in and out of His word. Yet, in those moments, I realize that He has made me different and it is in those moments that I feel humbled and in awe. Make no misunderstanding. I am not boasting in some unique gift or ability. I do not feel that I am special or that I should be recognized or rewarded. Do not hear that at all.

I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I am called by name by Him with purpose and direction. I have gifts and abilities that are similar to other people, but He wants to use my gifts and abilities for different plans.

I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I am equipped with physical abilities and endurance that is allowed by my Creator so that I can use this temple to best glorify Him. When I am still, it is also then that He whispers to me how I can better care for my temple in order to allow it to experience all that He longs to reveal to me.

I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I have an emotional intelligence level not shared by all that allows me to see human beings in a deeper level understanding that there are chapters of a story that have been written leading up to the now. This is not to say that all should not seek to understand one another, but there is a difference in being able to people watch in the grocery store and look into someone’s eyes and see that a long day on the job is not the only reason for their exhaustion.

I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I battle the internal struggle of when is it OK to tend to self and not tend to others as I know that my service to others is only as good as my recharged self. I have read the books that teach me to say NO, but I still need His voice and sometimes His physical hand to keep me from raising my hand to say, “I will do it.” He has given me the ability to see where service is needed, but the patience to wait for the exact one He is calling into the position of service is where I sometimes fall short.

I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I recognize the impact of my words and sometimes hold them close until I feel the recipient is prepared to hear them. Yet, I hold them close for too long as well as God has physically pushed me towards someone to speak TRUTH that I was terrified for them to receive. Yet, TRUTH will set you free, so why would I not want to set someone free?
I am different. This is to say that although I am made in the image of God, just like each and every other person on earth, I am uniquely designed to be exactly me. I am a weirdo that did enjoy middle school and high school. Yet see above, I realize all that I learned in those experiences and relationships and I have carried them with me to help me continue to be the different that God intends for me to be. I want to recapture the confidence and security of that girl I knew back then and release her into the setting within which I now sit.

I am different, because I know that as I hear the whisper for the third time, I recognize that He is truly talking to me. I realize that His word is seeping into my pores and penetrating my soul. I understand that I am not just getting weird feelings, but rather I am experiencing GOD. I hear Him once and somewhat cock my head to the side and make that inquisitive “Huh?” sound. I hear Him twice, and my heart beats a little differently as I am aware that His Spirit is at work and if I am not careful, it is about to get intimate and deep. (This is often the time where Satan will distract me with a child, a text, a dryer buzzer, a barking dog).
I hear Him a third time and a flock of geese fly by my window with the glaring obvious that my soul is stirred to a place that I cannot help but respond to God, my Savior. Tears fall and words of praise pour.

And through that, I am made different.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Easy Out

It’s hard. It’s gonna hurt. It will challenge you. It’s tough to swallow. Somewhat bearable. The pain will bring healing. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. You will wish you hadn’t. Getting started is the hard part. It’s going to take time.

Words we do not want to hear, right? Even more so today. We are presented with so many outs now that we seek to avoid pain and suffering and challenges with such magnitude that sometimes we are really just heaping on more pain and suffering for further down. Yet, we still choose avoid. We choose to run the other way. We rarely confront and fight and seek to endure.

In the book of Jeremiah (a man of supreme endurance), the Israelites were making choices that were of self and not of God. After an extensive period of time of waiting on the people to turn from their sin and return to Him, God allowed their sin to engulf them and their land was ravaged by the invading Babylonian Empire.

(Check your history texts. The account of this siege is written from the Babylonian perspective as well. History Teacher Nerd interjection)

Jeremiah was a prophet standing out in the crowd. He spoke God’s truth and was ignored, bullied, imprisoned, chastised, excluded, teased, tortured, yelled at, and discouraged by the people that God had placed him with to serve. Yet, when they wanted or needed something, they came back to him. We have all been this person to a friend or loved one. You know that feeling? They don’t want anything to do with you until they need something. Well Jeremiah felt like this EVERY DAY with EVERY PERSON he encountered. Talk about a battle with depression. Wowsers!

In chapter 42, a remnant of the people were spared from a slaying and had decided that they needed to run away. They had found the “out.” They had found the easier path. They had identified the way to avoid the pain and suffering. They had found the temporary relief.

Easy Out #1 - The easier path for them would be to go to Egypt and just blend in. They may not be in the upper class there, but they can find jobs and food and shelter. They can be a part of an already existing culture that has thriving economic activity. They can make some adjustments to their daily practice, but it will be so much easier than the alternative.

The alternative would be to stay. To stick it out. To endure the challenge. To experience the pain. To start the journey of restoration. To be patient with the time it will take. To fight.

The people of God had been spared from slaying because God had promised this land to them that they were being ran out of by the Babylonians. He wanted to show them that He was true to His word and this land is their land. Not the Babylonians. He wanted them to claim this gift and hold onto it no matter who tried to take it from their grasp. He wanted them to TRUST HIM.

Yet, here is what they said to Jeremiah.

“Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do…May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:2-3, 5-6

Sounds humble right? Let’s look a little more closely. In the beginning they are referring to God as Jeremiah’s god and asking Jeremiah to talk to the Creator of the Universe. They are not recognizing him as their own Creator. Which also demonstrates they are not in a personal relationship with him. Which also indicates they do not trust him. Things are hard.

Easy out #2 - Let’s ask God to fix it.

We do that too. And when He doesn’t fix it in our timing, we try to do it ourselves. Or if he doesn't fix it like we want him to, we seek other methods through the world. When we ask the Lord, we are to wait on the Lord and allow Him to reveal to us His master plan in His timing.

Look at how their language evolves through their petition. “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us.”

Translation - our current language - “I promise God, if you do this for me, give this to me, spare me from this, help me with this, I will never do that again. I promise I will do better with this practice. I promise this. I promise that.”

God doesn't need our empty promises. God doesn’t need us. He longs for us to be in such a loving relationship with Him that we make mistakes and apologize and he forgives us and we move on. We don’t have to make empty promises. In fact, he knows they are empty. Just be real with Him. Be the person with God that you want others to be with you. But BE WITH HIM. Talk with Him. Spend time with Him. That time you spend with Him will be the transformation within your soul that will get you to a place where you will no longer have to make false promises.

“…for we will obey the Lord our God.” He is Jeremiah’s God until the very last statement. Remember when you were a child and you would ask your mom and dad for something? You would end the plea with some sweet compliment or a promise or a cute smile. This last statement we find the Israelites acknowledging God as THEIR God and not just Jeremiah’s God. It wasn’t out of respect and adoration. It was out of desperation and one last compliment to sweeten the plea.

We find that God tells Jeremiah to inform the Israelites after 10 days of waiting to stay and He will bless them and they will thrive. Verse 9-18 is God’s explanation to the Israelites that He intends for them to have this land and to be built up and protected from the king of Babylon. He encourages them to not be afraid. He does not promise that the king will go away. He does not promise that it will be easy. He does not promise instantaneous blessings. He assures them that they needn’t fear because He is with them. God, knowing the heart of the people was craving the easy out, warns that easier will not be better. God clearly tells them that going to Egypt will lead to famine and plague. In other words, God is clearly stating “the grass is not greener on the other side.”

Kudos to them for waiting 10 days. We are guilty of not even waiting a few hours sometimes. However, they now have to make the decision. Do they trust God and play through the pain of rebuilding their kingdom? Do they trust God as they sow their crops and begin to establish an economy again? Do they trust God to even lie their heads down without fear of an invasion? Do they trust God and stay and experience the healing and compassion of the greatest capacity?

They said to the Lord, “..so that it will go well with us…”, but I am not so sure that they were thinking this is what He would say.

“God, let this relationship work because he seems perfect for me.”
Is he perfect, or does life seem easier if you marry this guy with money?

“God, grant me this job so I can financially bless others.”
Do you really want to financially bless others or do you want to live a comfy life and asking for a job to use the money to bless others sounds better?

“God, heal my mom from this illness so I can tell others about your miraculous power.”
This prayer is not insincere, but be aware that God’s healing comes in many different forms and sometimes the endurance of the trial is what will give Him greater witness.

Life is hard. It isn’t hard because of God. Life is hard because too many people are choosing the easy way out. Because of their choices, our world is spiraling into a darker place. The grass is not greener. Easy still comes with a cost. What God wants for you is so much more rich and full and beautiful.

Are you willing to wait 10 days or more? Are you willing to deepen your relationship with Him so that you can pray with trust and faith? Are you willing to allow restoration to occur in your soul? Did you know that restoration in you will lead to restoration in others? Join me in rebuilding the kingdom. Can you imagine how beautiful it will be?

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Deep and Wide

One of the greatest stories my family enjoys sharing of my childhood would be the epic children’s musical presentation of which I debuted my true colors. No, I did not take the lead in a solo. No, I did not pull my frilly church dress up over my head. No, I didn’t wave at my parents or adoring grandparents from stage. All of those behaviors are too common for a church girl singing on stage with all of her fashionably dressed peers. I exhibited leadership and protest to questionable authority in a profound and incriminating way. I found injustice and lack of consistency and spoke truth to an ignorant body. I looked the ruling figure square in the eye and rebuked their decision for it was causing a disturbance in my soul and I could not stand back and let such disorder and chaos ensue.

I was four.

A classic children’s church song that expounds upon the endlessness of God’s love for us is “Deep and Wide”. Do you not know it? That is telling of where you are in church or where you are in your walk. Not judging. Trust me. It is just telling. For those of us who did grow up in a traditional, Bible-thumping, sunrise service observing, fall festival (NOT HALLOWEEN) hosting, watered down VBS kool-aid drinking, Just As I Am Southern Baptist church, let us sing together and introduce this song to our friends.

Deep and Wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and wide

Deep and wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and wide.

Catchy, right? It gets better. For memorization mastery and awareness of proper singing position, children’s choir directors would conduct this masterpiece by singing it through one time followed by at least two, and sometimes three, additional times with missing words. Where the words should be in the song, the children’s choir was instructed to hum the word with your mouth properly formed encapsulating the egg with lips closed. You choir people know the position.

Deep and *HUM*,
Deep and *HUM*,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and *HUM*.

Deep and *HUM*,
Deep and *HUM*,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and *HUM*.

Amazing! The next round would find the voices substituting the word DEEP with a *HUM* and returning the word WIDE to the song. If the choir director felt a little Holy Spirit coming onto the sanctuary, we would go one last time with both words, DEEP and WIDE, being substituted with *HUM*. That’s right.

*HUM* and *HUM*

But wait! I forgot yet another part that makes this song just a step out of the traditional church worship setting. IT HAD MOTIONS. I know, right. You see Aunt Edna getting out her church pew fan right now for fear that she might faint because there was a form of dancing occurring in the worship service. Beads of sweat were forming on Deacon Roberson as he knew he might have to come up to the stage and carry out of the sanctuary the child on the back row that was bending his knees just a little too much for comfort. Yet, we did it anyway. For Deep, the hands expanded the floor to ceiling direction creating an invisible box. For Wide, the hands expanded the left and right, once again as if holding an invisible box. The left and right was always fun because someone always got struck with the aggressive worshipper seeking to prove a point about the expanse of God’s love from East to West.

The small section of the song that differed somewhat had it’s own little cute choreography. “There’s a fountain flowing” engaged the chorus to take their hands and make them into little fists and roll the fists as an extension of their 90 degree bent forearm over and over each other very similar to the also popular “Patty Cake” motion of “roll ‘em up, roll ‘em up”. Are you seeing it? There was much practiced involved for this production. You see, there was great concern for all of the choir members as to whether we were to roll our arms forward, away from the body, or backward, towards the body. Such stress for little ones.

Now, you have the song and the visual of how the song was to unfold. Let us return to the performance.

The small children’s choir of 15 or so preschoolers have taken the stage. The sanctuary was full because it was VBS Commencement. If you do not know what Commencement is, your welcome. Another day. This is the day of VHS recording cameras that were the size of the ones used by the newscast and the sanctuary was saturated with them as proud parents and grandparents were here to watch their babies sing ONE, maybe TWO songs of the same length of the above described song. It was epic.

Preschoolers get to go first in the production for many reasons.

They are the youngest, so you must go in order some way. Why not start with the youngest.
They have the shortest attention span, so making them go last would be disastrous.
They are the cutest, so they hook the crowd into watching the rest of the performances that may or may not be as adorable. (see first paragraph about waving and pulling dresses up over faces)
After they perform, they can be released to their parents and no longer the responsibility of the choir director.

We took the stage and I was front and center. Aren’t you special, you might say. I am. I was loud, and at this age, they just want you to make some noise. I knew the words and the motions, so I would actually perform correctly instead of fooling with my dress. AND last, but not least, I had family in charge of this production.

We sing through the first round of Deep and Wide and I did my part to keep us afloat. I was proud and poised to go through the next round with the implementation of the necessary and strategic humming. I giggled even to myself knowing that we would be so cute and all of these little old ladies would cackle and whisper to their husbands, “awe, look at that George. Aren’t they precious?”

And then it happened. The chaos and absence of order flooded over me. I felt pale and almost nauseated. Things were spinning out of control and I had to stop it before people were led astray. I had to speak up about the error of our ways. I began to sweat and the emotions came over me in a flash…so quickly that the room was almost spinning.

“NO!” I shouted at the choir director. “NO, that is not right!”

The choir director looked at me stunned and continued to try to direct the rest of the choir through the song by ignoring my protests. The choir director also looked at me as if I had lost my mind and that I would pay for this vocal outburst. I didn’t care. I saw an injustice and I was flooded with the severity of the need to right this wrong.


“You are dong it all wrong! We go, ‘deep and *hum*’ first NOT ‘*hum* and wide’ first.”

The choir director then makes a desperate glance over her shoulder to see if the parents of this unruly child would respond. The choir director was now sweating, also. The choir director was under the impression of “the show must go on” so regardless if we messed up the order of the song, we must keep singing and the choir must follow the director. My four year old little mind had not been introduced to that concept yet. I did not have that stage poise. I was just determined to fix the problem that was presented to my face.

Tears welled up in my little eyes and screaming began because there was not a correction being made to this horrible error. I, front and center, for all the church to see, was speaking the truth of the great depth and width of God’s love and I knew that order was important, but we are not sticking to the order that had been practiced day after day after day. My heart could not contain my disappointment and I wanted to fix it immediately.

“Richard, come and get her right now!” said the choir director through clenched teeth and slightly controlled anger.

The crowd was uncontrollable with laughter, but I was oblivious to it as I was filled with my own anger that such a travesty could happen.

As I saw my father walking up to the stage from the back of the sanctuary (where he sat because he was our sound man), I cried harder and started dancing in place because I knew that this was not going to end well for me. I was so torn because I was upset this injustice had occurred and yet I was going to be beaten for speaking my mind.

My father scooped me up off the stage and continued to loop the sanctuary carrying me out kicking and screaming. I do not know how the rest of the VBS commencement service went. I was banished from the ceremony as I had embarrassed my family with my outburst.

Was I tactful in my protest? No.

Was I timely in my protest? No.

Did I get my point across? Absolutely. Yet, not in a way that was impactful for the good.

Do people still remember my behavior to this day? I am reminded of this memory by church members I grew up with almost every time I go home.

Did I change the world for the better? No. Absolutely not.

Timing and truth. Truth must not be compromised. EVER. However, timing is Jesus. ALWAYS.

Remember that when you are trying to get your point across.

By the way, the choir director…she was my mother.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It Took 4 Years

Since that day, I have a grand list of life occurrences that have taken place. Since that day, I have rested my head at 8 different addresses. Since that day, I have applauded my husband’s accomplishments in completing his masters and excelling in leadership in his field. Since that day, I, too, have attained my masters and am finally employed in a position where I am serving people with my talents. Since that day, I have owned at minimum 12 pets. Since that day, I have held employment at 8 different establishments. Since that day, I have owned no less than 10 cell phones. Since that day, I have driven 5 different cars. Since that day, I have had at least 20 different hair styles. Since that day, I have lost my mother and both of her parents. Since that day, my husband’s parents have divorced and remarried. Since that day, my husband has survived 4 life-threatening experiences. Since that day, my house has flooded twice. Since that day, cancer has taken many people dear to me. Since that day, I have had a scare with that beast myself. Since that day, I have had 3 pregnancies. And on that day in 2012, one came to an end.

I said goodbye to a dream. I accepted the not now or maybe later. I grieved the death of a child that I never got to hold. I curled up in the lap of my Heavenly Father and wept on his chest as he held me and told me that He hurt with me. I was showered with love by others, which were extensions of His mercy and grace upon me as I was not allowed to walk this alone.

Yet, today, as I watch the 15 year memorial on the History Channel of September 11 in our great nation’s history, my frailty resurfaces and I am aware that there is still more grieving to take place and there is so much more going on in my world than my selfish obsessions. God, in all his great patience (15 years and more) is awaiting my response to His call to action. There are people who have also lived at 8 or more addresses since September 11, 2001. There are people who have juggled more than 8 jobs since then because they had to, not because of choice like myself. There are people who have not driven a car at all because they cannot afford one. There are people who lost multiple loved ones that day and are still not sure about life after death. Yet, here I sit in my own pity party wondering what I am to do next when all the while, I hold the answer. I know what happens next.

Since that day, I have seen God move our family through His leading into each of these new addresses and I have rejoiced in the excitement and deliverance each time - EACH TIME. Since that day, I have seen my husband thrive in the education of the church and in turn pour out his wisdom to others as he strives to serve people. Since that day, I have seen God give me the ability to juggle 2 children, teaching, coaching, and leading a small group all while getting my master’s degree. Since that day, I have watched my mother pass AND I, YES I, got to say goodbye unlike the over 3000+ families that did not get that closure.

This day is so much harder for me since 2012. I should have a 3 year old to tuck in tonight. I should be packing 3 lunches for school tomorrow. I should lay out 3 outfits. I should be outside practicing with training wheels again. But I am not and it is good. Now here is where I am.

For nearly 4 years, I have been in deep conversation with God about accepting this desire of my heart and discovering how else He intends to fulfill it. Here is my reality that He is finally getting through to me. He is not going to fulfill this desire. He is not.

Did you just catch your breath as well?

For 4+ years, I have been trusting God to fulfill the desire of my heart for more children to care for and I have been creating different ways for this desire to transpire. I just know He wants me to share our loving family with other children. If I cannot birth another one, than we must adopt. A foreign adoption makes so much sense as we will be able to give a child in an impoverished land a greater opportunity to know God, to know family, to know their abilities, to thrive.

But we didn’t raise enough money…and then we moved…and our situations shifted…but I still tried to make my vision His vision.

We will foster and that will most likely lead to adoption and oh how God will be honored through this experience. We went through the classes. We met all the requirements. We got a house with enough room. We found excitement. We got a placement.

They were beautiful babies that I fell in love with instantly. But this was not what God wanted for our family. So he took things in which I had found security and stability and caused them to create great instability and anguish in my own personal being. I cried so much. At the time, I thought my tears were from exhaustion and fatigue. Now, I know. They were tears of grieving.

I grieved not only the realization that we could not keep these children in our lives, but that God was painfully telling me what He had been trying to tell me all along. The desire of my heart for my life are my desires and not His. My heart was bleeding for His broken and fallen world and that gave Him great joy. Yet, the calling I was trying to call myself to answer was not His voice, but only my own.
How can you do the things I long for you to do when you keep trying to do everyone else’s assignment, Jodi? Why are you weary? Because you are trying to be anybody but who I designed you to be. Be still and listen.

That baby you carried for 11 weeks was a creation that I made and I allowed you to experience because you so desired that feeling once more. Yet, if I had allowed that baby, with the conditions that were present, to come into your life, your hands would be tied to not do other things I have designed you to do.

This baby you sought to adopt from a foreign land; a land full of MY PEOPLE that I have formed and have a greater love for than you will ever be able to experience; that baby would also take time away from your sharpening of your gifts. These precious little ones need so much more than you can give right now, Jodi. I did not desire to watch you weep with the agony of despair and failure that I know you to experience.

I gave you two at an age you requested and I knew your heart would be one with their’s immediately, because I know YOU. I formed you and I know how you tick. I gave in and allowed you to weep with agony and despair and the feeling of failure that you experienced as things did not line up for you to keep these two precious ones that I also spoke into existence. I gave in to your continual pleas as I knew you had come to a place where you needed to see for yourself what I was trying to speak over you so many times before.

Now, do you hear me? I love you more than you will ever comprehend. I have plans for you to prosper. I have given you a spirit of power and self-worth. The world has sought to tear you down, but I have come to restore you and pick you up out of the mire. I have come to watch you spark a flame and eventually become a blazing fire that draws people to my name. I am holding you now and steadying your gait as fear seeks to wrap your feet like cement and prevent them from taking even one step further.

Begin the plunge back into my Word and hide it in your heart as the world will now more readily attack your vulnerability. Reach out for my promises and close your ears to the chiding and laughter and discouragement. Remember that the same heart I gave you to love those babies is the same heart that now needs to love the offspring of those who were devastated by life and are just not sure I am real and I am here. That same heart that you had to rescue those in another land where prosperity is limited is the heart I want you to use to recognize the absence of prosperity everywhere and bring that awareness to my throne. Let me hear you speak of what you see as I see you trust me to deliver just as I have delivered you.

Though you are acknowledging the difference in my vision and your vision, I am completely OK with your grieving resurfacing. I created you. I made you an emotional being. I expect you to feel and I long for you to let me be a part of that process - even if it means that you look at me with those eyes of great disappointment. I only wish I could get through to you sooner so that this is not so painful. Too often I have seen you dream wild and freely only to have it crash. I want you to dream and I want you to run without fear towards impossible goals, but I want them to be the goals I HAVE for you because they are THE BEST.

Since that day, I have watched the widows and orphans increase and the care for them fluctuate. Since that day, I have watched people release their linked arms and begin to fill with hate again. Since that day, I have watched people live like tomorrow is given even though you watched with intense awareness that it is not. Since that day, cancer still attacks. Since that day, terrorists still lurk. Since that day, jealousy still eats the flesh and the Sabbath is no longer holy. Since that day, my heart for my people has only grown more sorrowful and my army of men and women of faith is depleting into a weak and self-absorbed sit-in. Where are you? I go before you and I stand behind and I am always by your side. I reign forever. It will take my angel armies to help you, but if you trust me, they will come. Since that day, I have been waiting on you to see MY BEST FOR YOU. Trust that just as I was with Caleb and Joshua, I will also be with you.

May you never forget…again.

(No this is not my foot...but maybe it should be)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wasted Time

One of my biggest problems is time management. I am constantly caught wasting time and it was completely unintentional. Even more frustrating is my inability to manage my time effectively prevents me from those free moments in the day where “wasting time” is allowable. Seem confusing? Picture this. I am waiting on the fantastic meal to emerge from the oven, and instead of changing out the dishes or laundry, I turn to scrolling through social media to get the scoop on everyone’s latest and greatest. So when dinner is over and the cleanup overwhelms me and it is time to put the kids to bed and I have wet clothes to put in the dryer that will be wrinkled because I will fall asleep before the dryer stops, I feel like I am drowning. Whose fault? Mine. All because I was afraid I was going to miss out on something that could wait or really did not even need to involve me.

This neglectful behavior becomes habitual and just like any habit, it eventually becomes harmful. I repeat this same mistake throughout the day and 10 minutes lost here plus 5 minutes lost there adds up. Even as I type this, I look around my living room and spot 3 stacks of books that are not ornate. They are in need of being put away. Why didn’t I do it immediately? They were taken out to share with my women’s group for visual references, but then the domino effect of the rest of the day transpired with other obligations and I never got back around to it. You know that avalanche - start dinner, water the flowers, do the laundry, bathe the dog (and children), make lunches for school tomorrow, work on budget and bills, and so on and so on. The books STILL SIT there taunting me reminding me that if I would just use my time on Instagram today walking across the room from desk to bookshelf, I would have just a tiny bit less anxiety.

I know that many of you experience similar conundrums, but I feel like I am the princess of procrastination. And here is the biggie, it is a sin. Did you know that? When I sit down and wrap my brain around that, it makes me aware of how much more important it is for me to get myself into gear and make better use of my time.

The Bible is very clear about God’s view of idle behavior - it leads to trouble. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds the church that those who are left idle become busybodies (his words, not mine) and are involved in business they ought not be involved.

Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 1 Timothy 5:13

This is not to say that involving yourself in the lives of others is a sin through social media. However, are you using your time to honor God by maintaining a stress free status as you stay informed on the paint color of your high school classmate’s new guest bedroom, or are you using your time for His glory and honor to accomplish the tasks at hand presented to you with the many responsibilities of every day life prioritized accordingly?

In Ecclesiates 11:6 we read, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” You will not know immediately as to whether your investment in “wasted time” is fruitful. You will know very quickly if the day becomes so overwhelming that exhaustion robs you of joy and you struggle to see if you actually sowed anything. God walks with you to give you clarity of direction and energy to invest. Let us not be idle, but work in such a way that when free time arrives, it is actually ours for the taking.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thank You Audrey Assad

You could have come like a mighty storm, with all the strength of a hurricane. You could have come like a forest fire, with the power of Heaven in your flame. But you came like a winter snow, quiet, soft and slow, falling from the sky in the night to the Earth below! You could have come like a tidal wave, or an ocean to ravish our hearts. You could have come through like a roaring flood to wipe away the things we scarred. But you came like a winter snow, quiet soft, and slow, falling from the sky in the night to the Earth below. Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning, your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind. It was still. It was small. It was hidden.

“Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad

Purposed perspective seems to be my current running theme. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs as it so perfectly encapsulates what God did for us through the gift of His son. As a teacher, I am blessed with an opportunity to teach various religions. For some, that makes them very uncomfortable, but for me, it is a privilege. You see, many of my students are familiar with the story of Christ simply because we live in a culture that exposes the greatest story ever told annually in conjunction with the greatest sin that is battled - greed. Yet, as I get to tell them about religions, I get to explain why some religions struggle to understand Jesus as the Messiah that Christians herald Him to be. The Savior of the world, THE WORLD, should have come like a mighty storm, with all the strength of the of a Hurricane. The Great Redeemer of the Human Race should have come like an all consuming forest fire. The Lord of all Creation should have overtaken the world like a tidal wave. But He didn’t. He came in quietly, in the still of the night to a common carpenter and his wife, in a cave shared by livestock. So the world struggles with that as we celebrate people who make big, flashy and even eccentric entrances. Why wouldn’t God make the same style of entrance?

Because that is not His MO. He is a God, the God, my God capable of orchestrating all of the other elements of nature above. I mean really, He has flooded the entire Earth before. However, He want us to LISTEN and to TRUST. He is attentive to detail and His methods are intended to align with our actions. He designed us a certain way to respond with our emotions and our spirits to certain colors and certain sounds. I see this in His created beings every day. We take pause at the quiet falling snow that we cannot hear, but yet we can see. Not only do we see the gentle gliding flakes, we see the piles of PURE and DELICATE and flawless white powder on the ground. We respond to that with AWE even though it isn’t like a torrential downpour forcing us to the attentive. It is mesmerizing. Sometimes He guide us to His picture, His work for the kingdom, His glory by gentle nudges that feel as subtle as a snowflake landing on our nose. It gives Him greater joy and more surmountable honor when we move by the touch of His hand and not a shove.

The color of the snow is no accident. White is pure. White is innocent. White is flawless. White is breathtaking. My lazy spirit grumbles almost daily at my white kitchen counters that I did not get to choose as they are a beacon of light for all crumbs and stains seeking a home. But that is just it, their white color gives me a greater awareness of the filth and the danger that can be on my counter which could contaminate other meals I am prepping or other projects I am working on. When I look at the freshly falling snow, my heart cries out for all to stay still and remain indoors and just gawk with me at the wonderment. For I know, as soon as my neighbor cannot stand it anymore, his tires will tread upon the smooth cloud of ice crystals on our street and mar the artwork of which I have found captivating. I know that my children will awaken soon and find their sleds and place their sweet little feet in snow boots and trudge through the yard in great efforts to make a man out of this fallen malleable substance. Then, even though they are precious, the artwork of which I have been breathing in is now changed forever. The leaves and dirt that are underneath will be mixed into the snow as they roll their spheres and the perfection will reveal imperfection.

So it is but for a moment that I get to enjoy His clarity and His words and His vision. But it is a moment that I cherish and I am also reminded by His speaking even now that this moment is not meant to be long. If it were than I would fall into a place of complacency and idleness. This moment is brief enough for me to be still and to listen and to trust. After that, take the words I have heard and the things that I have seen and press on in my endeavors to bring honor and glory to His kingdom. I am to see the tiny fingers of which I am blessed to nurture and create for them a generous cup of hot cocoa. I am to go out and help them construct their masterpiece so that all the world will see their creativity and they will have courage to make another and another and another and one day, they too will be listening in the quiet of the morning and see the canvas just the same.