Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Time to Love







 My favorite girl came to visit for the Fourth of July. The entire week before the holiday, she looked forward to wearing her red, white, and blue outfit with the sequined heart that could change colors from red to silver. 

She loved baking funfetti cupcakes, frosting them with white icing, and topping each one with red and blue sprinkles and an American flag.


She loved the shiny red and blue table decorations. She noticed that even her Skip Bo cards were patriotic colors—red and blue with white numbers.




 But I think this Grammy loved Fourth of July even more than her granddaughter did. The holiday week brought a refreshing respite from the heavy cloud of gloom and doom we’ve been under these past few months.


Daily I’ve felt bombarded by headlines such as “Spike in Coronavirus Deaths. How Bad Will It Be?” I’ve felt saddened by news articles peppered with words like “injustice,” “violence,” and “hate-speech,” and posts characterized by divisive and offensive language.

But this past week the clouds parted, and sunshine streamed in because my son, my beautiful daughter-in-law, and my precious granddaughter came to visit from Georgia.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."

Well, we’ve had our season to “refrain from embracing.” This was our time to embrace. While sometimes it is a time to weep and mourn, this was our time to laugh. And though it’s appropriate to hate injustice and ignorance, last week it was time to love.

So right now I'm feeling especially thankful for the love of family and friends. I'm appreciating the freedoms we enjoy in America. I'm letting my mind dwell on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)

And I'm thanking God for this time to love.











Monday, May 18, 2020

Mother's Day

To all the mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-to-be, aunts, mentors, and special women in our lives, Happy Mother’s Day.
To all the husbands and fathers, daughters and sons, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, children, step-children, and grandchildren who make this day special…Thank you!
If this were a perfect world, I’d be sitting at a table in my favorite restaurant, spending Mother’s Day surrounded by all my children and grandchildren. My husband would be there, and, ideally, I’d have my own mother there, too.
But this is not a perfect world. So I Skyped with my out-of-town loved ones, and my in-town children delivered a gourmet meal to my doorstep---because Covid-19 eliminated any possibility of sharing a restaurant meal.
My husband bought me a beautiful orchid for Mother’s Day, even though I’m not the mother of his son, and he’s not the father of my boys.
I won’t be sharing a meal with my mother until I get to heaven because she died a long time ago…long before my sons were even teenagers….long before she had a chance to hear me say, “Mama, now I see why you worried about us so much.”
And since I can’t call my own mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, I called my mother-in-law. Except she’s not my mother-in-law anymore since I’m no longer married to her son. So now I call her my mother-in-love, because I still love her, because she’s a wonderful person, a role model and a spiritual mentor.
It’s not a perfect world.
But if we let go of our vision of “ideal,” we’ll see how God, in His goodness, takes the shards of our broken lives and reworks them into a beautiful mosaic that reflects His glory.
Like stained glass, our stained lives have a resemblance to the life we imagined, but in an imperfect, fragmented sort of way.
Life doesn’t usually turn out the way we planned. But God is a God of second chances. And third chances. And sometimes seventy times seven chances.
Are you experiencing a Mother’s day that looks nothing like what you imagined? Open your eyes to see what God might be doing with the broken pieces of your life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

When You're Anxious about the Future



 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  Matthew 6:26-28 (ESV)

I felt my heart rate accelerate. My jaw clenched. My muscles tightened. My body and mind were suddenly on alert: Stressful situation approaching!

My husband and I were discussing our finances in view of the sudden upheaval in the world's economy. I'd tried to ignore graphs of the stock market jumping up and down like a kid on a trampoline. But as my husband and I talked, my heart rate was bouncing up, too.

The world is in a crisis unlike any I've experienced. We don't know what the future holds. What if we make the wrong decision?

If I let my imagination run wild, I could envision us in a Depression Era scene, empty bowls in hand, shuffling in line to get our daily ration at a soup kitchen.

Then I had to take a deep breath and remember where our hope is anchored. It's not in our bank accounts, our jobs, or the economy. Our hope is in God ... the very same God who's provided for us through past upheavals, recessions, and natural disasters.



In Matthew Chapter 6 we read Jesus's wonderful illustration of how God cares for the lilies and the birds. It's important to note this comes right after Jesus says not to lay up treasures on earth and that we can't serve both God and money. Jesus tells us to focus on the important things; God will provide for our needs.


31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.





After those lovely, reassuring words about taking care of the lilies and the birds, Jesus says this:

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

Each day has enough trouble of its own” That’s a discouraging statement.  I looked it up in the Greek, and it sounded even worse. Trouble is “kakia,” which is also translated “evil,” “malice,” or “wickedness.”  So much for my vision of lilies blooming and birds singing.

But then, life isn’t always birds and flowers, is it? Many people are now in the middle of painful, desperate situations. But we don’t need to compound our difficulties by worrying about tomorrow.

The Living Bible paraphrases the words of Jesus this way:

“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. “Matthew 6:34 (TLB)

God will give believers the strength to endure whatever comes our way today. Live one day at a time.

One of my heroes of faith is Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian whose family hid Jews in their home during WWII. She and her family were eventually arrested, and Corrie and her sister were sent to a concentration camp. Corrie survived and wrote of her experience in a book called The Hiding Place. In the book, she recounts an incident from her childhood when she was afraid that her father would die.

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. "Corrie," he began gently, "when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?"
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
"Why, just before we get on the train."
"Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.” Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

It's been years since I read the book, but I’ve never forgotten that story. When tomorrow comes, God will give us grace for tomorrow’s trials, but not before.

In the meantime, we make the best decisions with the information we have today, but we don’t fret. We can take our nervous energy and redirect it into positive things, like seeking God and doing our part to advance His kingdom.

Writing that letter. Making that phone call. Saying those kind words. Helping where we can. Being faithful to do the work God’s given us.

What about you? Instead of worrying about tomorrow, what can you do today to draw closer to God?
Look at your sphere of influence. What can you do today to make a difference?

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I know God’s in control. And I know I have today.




Thursday, March 26, 2020

Prayer Makes a Difference





“Therefore, confess you sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)

I’m getting tired of looking at that image. You know the one.  Usually it’s a gray sphere, with little burgundy colored spikes sticking out all around it. It looks like one of those rubbery, squishy "stress balls" that we squeeze to relieve stress. But this one is bound to cause stress rather than relieve it, and it's the last thing you’d want in your hand.

It’s public enemy number 1, the novel covid-19 corona virus. How could something that resembles a flower be so deadly?
Image result for covid-19

I’ve joined the rest of the world on an emotional roller coaster. I’m trying to be levelheaded, to get current information, and to make decisions based on available facts. My hopes will rise, and I’ll think: It won’t be that bad. It’s not any worse than the flu. But moments later I’ll hear the latest statistics or predictions, and my faith will plummet. If I allow my thoughts to dwell on the crisis, my stomach begins doing somersaults.

Like most other citizens of the world, I’m looking for ways to prevent the spread of the virus. So I’m doing the hand-washing/social distancing/ staying at home thing. But despite all the precautions, it’s hard to fight an invisible enemy, and I know so many things are beyond my control.

But I know I can pray.

And I don’t view prayer as a last resort, but as a first line of defense.

No, God doesn’t take orders from me or give me everything I ask for. But the Bible is very specific: when we are suffering, God tells us to pray.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 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. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:13-16 (NKJV)

We may know people who are sick right now. Do we believe our prayers can bring them comfort? Hasten their recovery? Bring them back from the brink of death?

We need to pray.

And we need to confess our trespasses to one another. In other words, if we’ve offended someone, we need to ask forgiveness. God calls us to come to him with humble, penitent, pure hearts, recognizing our need for him.

I’d be lying if I said that everyone I’ve prayed for has been healed on this earth. There are people for whom I’ve prayed fervently, yet God still took them home. God, in his infinite wisdom, always does what’s best.

And we know that if Jesus doesn’t come back first, we’ll all have a close encounter with the Grim Reaper. (Morbid thought, I know.)

But I know that in the past God has extended a person’s life in answer to prayer. He did that with Hezekiah. Hezekiah was dying, and he prayed, and God allowed him to live another 15 years.  ( You can read his story in II Kings 20.) Prayer made a difference.

 I can recall a time when prayer made a difference for me.

Years ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. Stage three meant that cancerous cells were found in the lymph nodes, ready to spread to other organs. Yet when the surgeon removed 30-some lymph nodes along with the cancerous tumor, all the lymph nodes were clear. Successful pre-surgery chemotherapy and radiation? Maybe.  Coincidence? Luck? I don’t think so. The elders of the church prayed for me before the surgery. Friends and family prayed for me. I prayed. And God heard.

 And since God has allowed me to live a little longer on this earth, I'm going to use my time to declare the wonderful things he's done. 

“I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.” Psalm 118:17 (NKJV)



James wants us to know that God responds to our prayers.

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:17-18 (NKJV)

Prayer changes things.

It changes me. It aligns my desires to his desires, my will to his will. It provides a peace that is beyond anything I could produce on my own. 

Next time I see a picture of that squishy ball on the TV or computer screen, I’m going to remind myself that prayer is the ultimate stress reliever. It is powerful and effective because it connects us with our all-powerful God who is still on his throne and still in control. And I'm going to pray.

Because prayer makes a difference.


Here’s a link to Jaci Velasquez singing “I Get on my Knees.”





Sunday, December 2, 2018

When You Feel Like You Don't Belong

 Sometimes when we're feeling down, we need to be reminded of our true identity. The Bible tells us that as Christians we are adopted into God's forever family.



“In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves." Ephesians 1:5

One ordinary September day, we got this text:

“We said yes!”

My son and daughter-in-law had been unable to have children of their own, and so they decided to adopt a child from the foster care system. After months of evaluations and classes, they finally got the call. A baby was available for adoption. Would they like to meet her?

Before the meeting, my son told his wife, “We don’t have to decide today. We can go home and talk about it.”

As it turns out, it was the child’s first birthday when my son and daughter-in-law met her. They sent a picture of a tiny girl with wide, questioning brown eyes and a brow furrowed with concern. Another picture showed her glancing sideways in suspicion, as if to say, “Who are these people and why am I here?” A third photo showed her snuggled comfortably in my son’s arms, asleep.









For the happy couple, it was love at first sight. They didn’t need to deliberate. They said “yes” to adoption, and in May the following year, the child officially, legally became part of the family.
Though she shares no genetic material with her parents, she is their daughter, possessing the same rights and privileges as any biological child would have. Her parents’ commitment to love and care for their daughter does not hinge on her behavior. Her position is secure.



The beauty of adoption lies in the choice.

Ephesians says that we are God’s adopted children. In accordance with His will, He chose us.  It gave Him pleasure to adopt us. We are part of the family, and He freely gives us His love.

If you ever feel unloved, unwanted, inferior or insecure, consider this: God said “yes” to you. Yes, He loves you. Yes, He wants you.  Yes, you are highly privileged because you belong to His forever family. And yes, He’s keeping you.

And that fearful little baby that captured the hearts of her adoptive parents? She is growing into a happy, confident girl who knows she’s loved.

We can be like that. Happy. Confident. Growing. Loved. Adopted as sons and daughters and recipients of His glorious grace.

When you feel like you don't belong, remember, you've been ADOPTED into God's forever family.




Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Happiest Place on Earth


When my children were young, we made several trips to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” You know the place…mouse ears, castles, rides. I remember the twinge of excitement that would bubble up once we began seeing orange groves and billboards along the Highway. And when we entered the gates, it seemed magical…well, sort of magical, as long as you could disregard the throngs of people wearing shorts and taking pictures. It was a happy place…that is, until mid-afternoon when at least one of the kids became grouchy and had an “episode.” (Your family may call it a meltdown or tantrum.) We’d fix that problem and go along our merry way-- until it rained, or someone got sick, or the lines were too long, or we couldn’t agree on a plan of action.

Suddenly our delight evaporated.

It seems like people are always searching for something to “make us happy.” We crave the temporary euphoria we experience when our team wins the game. We search for that perfect job, home, relationship, or hobby.

 Earthly happiness dangles like a carrot in front of our nose. It’s elusive, fleeting, unsatisfying.

Yet the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

God wants to give us things to enjoy. He wants to place holy desires in our hearts and then fill those desires. We begin by delighting in Him.

Delight is a form of happiness that’s wide-eyed with wonder and bubbling with enthusiasm. The Hebrew word used in this verse is “anag,” and connotes something soft, delicate, and alluring.

But what does it look like to “delight in the Lord?”

Since David seemed to have a handle on delighting in the Lord, I’m going to look for some advice from David’s Psalm 16.  

David went about his day CONSCIOUS OF GOD’S PRESENCE. He talked to God all day long.

“I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Ps. 16:2

He recognized that every good thing is his life was, one way or another, connected to God.
And his delight was multiplied when he joined with other believers. When he worshiped with his peeps, he was bursting with excitement. He was even known to dance for joy. (II Samuel 6:14)

“As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.” Ps. 16:3 NKJV

David was CONTENT WITH THE LIFE GOD GAVE HIM.

There’s nothing wrong with having ambitions and aspirations. But in our striving for “something better”, let’s not miss out on the good we already have. Delighting in the Lord means counting our blessings, and marveling at the goodness all around us.

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Ps. 16: 5-6 NKJV

David was CONFIDENT OF GOD’S CARE. 

“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” Ps. 16: 7-8 NKJV

A delighted attitude is a peace-filled mindset, free from worry and insecurity. David rested in the assurance that God would give him wisdom for every decision. David was an eager student, even if it meant going to “night school.” He learned his lessons in dark, uncertain circumstances. Because he trusted God, David confidently declared, “I shall not be moved.”

David was CONVINCED THAT GOD HAS GOOD PLANS FOR HIS FUTURE.

“Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.                                                                                                                        
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy;
 at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” V. 9-11 NKJV




Here is our hope: our troubles will not last forever. God will remove them all, if not in this world, then in the next. But in the meantime, He walks with us along the rough roads, and He’s a delightful companion.

 A delighted heart experiences a joyful present and expects a pleasant future.
  
A delighted heart refuses to become tangled in a net of negativity.

A delighted heart lives in the awareness of God’s presence, walks in contentment and confidence, and rests in fullness of joy.

And that, my friend, is the Happiest Place on Earth.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Stop, Drop, and Rejoice in Today



“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

I woke up and remembered why I hadn’t set my alarm: school was canceled because forecasters predicted snow. Teachers and students all over town did their happy dance. Snow in South Louisiana!
Had it really snowed?

To steal a line: Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash. (Well, not exactly.  We don’t have shutters. But you get the picture.)

Fat, wet, flakes were tumbling from the sky. I put on my jacket and went outside.

At first, a sprinkling of snowflakes in delicate, crystalline clumps fell on my sleeves and melted.
Soon the clouds were dumping snow like powdered sugar on the lawn, rooftops, mailbox, and tree branches.

I watched in awe as my neighborhood morphed into a Christmas card scene. This kind of snowy vignette usually exists only in the imaginations of southerners like me. I was afraid that if I blinked, the lovely whitewashed world would disappear.

When was the last time you rejoiced in the day---stopped multitasking, dropped unnecessary distractions, and relished it?   When was the last time you savored the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the moment? When was the last time you cherished today, a limited-time offer that’s expiring soon?

It doesn’t snow here often.  But every day is filled with little miracles that I miss because I’m often too busy performing useless tasks or complaining about the necessary ones.

I don’t always appreciate the hugs and smiles of my little students or take the time to laugh at the funny things they say. Instead, I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the responsibility of educating them and controlling their chaos. I don’t always fully appreciate the extraordinary people in my life because I’m so distracted.

How many times do we plow through daily routines without acknowledging God’s presence or thanking Him for a warm bed, a comfortable home, or friends and family? How many times do we hurry through meals without tasting the food because we're checking emails or for the next day? 

But God wants us to rejoice!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” II Thessalonians 5:16




It’s time to stop, drop, and rejoice in the moments that make up our days, because every day is wonder-filled.   Every day should be a snow day. Or a singing-in-the-rain day. Or a Son-day.  Or Christmas Day. Or a falling-in-love day. Or a new-birth day. An exotic day. A vacation day. A snuggle day. A day for celebration. A day for taking notice and taking time. A fresh-start day.  A day for delighting, because God’s compassions are new every morning.