Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Holidays... With a Heavy Heart

I love the holidays!  I love that all my kids come home.  I love that they remember things from their childhood about the holidays.  I love that there are certain things, foods, etc. that they associate with each holiday.  All of those things have created many memories that I hold close to my heart.

But holidays can also be for some, a time when your heart is breaking.  A time when you are having to relearn how to live, to relearn how to be happy or to relearn how to just breathe because you've lost someone close to you.  Losing someone is never easy, when it happens around the holidays it's even harder.  Because you almost feel like your holidays have been tainted.  I lost my dad to cancer in November of 1973 just 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  I was almost 12 years old.  And to this day, 40 years later, I still miss him.  Yes, it's been long enough that it's not the focus of my holidays, but I still think of him none the less.  But now, I remember more about all the fun we used to have and the things we used to do and I don't focus as much on the loss. But the loss is still there nonetheless.  I still miss him when I hear my granddaughter say or do funny things, because I know he would have adored her and would be teaching her all kinds of mischief!  I missed him especially when I got married and when my kids were born.  He would have taught them so many things.  Things I still tried to teach them, but it wasn't the same as having him here.  I still remember seeing my mom break down that first Christmas he wasn't there.  Knowing how much I love Chris, I cannot imagine that kind of pain.

And it's because of all of these things that my heart is so heavy.  Our church has been hit hard this year with loss, with grief and with tragedy.  We lost a great man to cancer who was a great friend, father, husband and son.  We have a member who lost 2 members of their family to cancer within a couple of weeks time and he himself has battled cancer but is in remission, Praise God!  We have lost several of our older members in the last year.  We have members who have lost children unexpectedly. And I know people who have lost moms, dads, brothers, sisters and other extended family. There has just been so much loss. 

It breaks my heart and weighs me down to know what the holidays will be like this year for those families.  And then my heart is full of joy and praise because we have also had numerous members who have battled cancer and praise God are now cancer free! We also have some members who are finishing their cancer treatments and we continue to praise God for the healing He is doing in them.  We even have one member who had an aorta rupture and she survived to tell about it! In fact, she was dead for 10 minutes and came back!  That doesn't happen, so God has big plans for her!

I write all of this to say, be aware of those around you who are hurting.  Whether it's because they've lost loved ones or it's because of another reason you cannot even fathom.  Don't offer them advice just let them know that you there, that you care.  Wrap your arms around them and remind them that they are loved.  And wrap your arms around those who have fought the battle and are winning.  Remind them that God has a purpose for them.  Remind them that it's ok to be joyful and to praise God for "their" healing.  Because deep down it's hard for them when they know others have lost the battle.

May God wrap His arms around each of this holiday season.  May He fill your heart with love and thankfulness for the journey He is bringing you through.  And for those who are suffering loss, may He wrap His arms around you and fill your heart with wonderful memories, may you feel the presence of your loved ones in the traditions you keep and in the laughter of your children and grandchildren.  And may we all remember that He is risen and the tomb is empty and we will see them all again!  Praise God!

"but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31

"The Lord bless youand keep you; 
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;"
Numbers 6:24-25 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Listening for God

I had something happen a little over a week ago and it still keeps coming to mind... and it still bothers me.  A little over a week ago I was on my way home from work and there was someone walking around at the light I go through every day with a sign asking for help.  At this particular location there is always someone there.  Sometimes it's the same person and sometimes it's someone new.  I don't help every day, but there are times when I just feel a strong urging from God to help.  On those days, I put my window down.

The other day was one of those days.  I can't explain it, but I just felt a strong urging to give them some money.  I didn't have much on me, but I rolled down the window to give them what I had.  What happened in the next few seconds still makes me mad and I still can't stop thinking about it.  As I had my arm out the window handing some money to this gentleman, the light turned green.  The second the light turned green, with my hand out the window handing someone who needed food some money, the truck behind me started honking... yes honking!  I could not believe that someone would honk their horn for you to hurry up when you were offering someone assistance.  It wasn't like I had been sitting there for several minutes... it had literally been seconds... probably one second! I gave the money to the guy and told him God bless you and drove on... But what I really wanted to do was throw my car into park and go give the guy behind me a piece of mind!  I could not believe that someone would be so rude.

What has happened to people?  How has society degraded to the point that someone will actually honk at you for taking to long to help someone? (And by too long I'm talking no more than about 5 seconds!)  I was brought up by my parents to be loving towards others, to give when you can to help others, to treat others the same way you want to be treated.  What has happened to society to get us to a point where we don't even show common courtesy to those around us?

And then, 2 days after this happened I was leaving a parking lot and saw a man and his wife and their 4 kids with a sign.  He had just lost his job and they were trying to get enough money to get groceries.  Again, I rolled down my window and gave him some money.  Again, I heard a horn honk... but this time it was a guy in another lane who was trying to get his attention so he could also give him some money. In fact, people all around were rolling down their windows! Wow!!  What a difference!

I know in this day in time, it's hard to know if people really need the money.  There are stories of people who do this for a living and are making a fortune. I have no idea if that is really true, but if it's true, God will take care of those people.  What I know is, there are times when I feel completely prompted by God to roll down my window.  What I know is, there are times when I feel God causes me to overhear a conversation someone is having with someone else because he wants me to help.  And what I know is, even when I don't feel prompted to help in certain situations, I will NOT honk for someone else who does feel prompted to hurry up!  I also know that it is not up to me to judge whether or not someone is "really" in need.  If I feel prompted by God, it is my job to give, not to judge.

There are people all around us every day.  Some need help, some don't.  Some need someone to talk to, some don't.  Some need someone to just listen, some don't.  Some need help with a meal, some don't.  We are called to help whenever we can.  We are called to be Jesus with skin on to a world that sees too little of who Jesus Really Is.  We are called to be Jesus with skin on to a world that may not see Jesus except through us and the way we live or the kindness we show. I want them to see the Jesus I know.  The Jesus who is loving, compassionate and available to give help when needed.  The Jesus who has a kind word, a smile, an ear to listen, even money when needed.  And one more thing I know... I generally never have cash on me any more, but Every Time I feel that prompting from God, there is always some kind of cash in my wallet.

If we listen, God will speak.  Maybe through a strong sense of something you feel deep within you, maybe through something someone says to you.  It may be in a variety of ways, but He Will speak to us.  The question is... are we going to listen?  And the bigger question is... how are we going to respond?

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:1-2


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Power in the Light

This morning as we were getting ready for worship, our electricity went off.  A few weeks ago there was a bad wreck in our neighborhood that took out a light pole and our power was out for about 5 hours.  Normally, this morning wouldn't have bothered me except that I hadn't finished with my hair... which requires electricity.  :-)  We have room darkening shades and black out curtains in our bedroom because we like to sleep with it totally dark. So when the electricity went off it was amazing how DARK it was in there!  It's also funny how trained we are to turn on the lights.  Knowing that there was no electricity, the first thing you do is still reach for the light switch.  It's like instinct; second nature.

Fortunately, this time the lights were only off for about 2 minutes and then they came back on.  So we don't know what happened but we were glad it was short lived.  But while the lights were off, I raised up one of the shades in the bedroom to let the light in from outside.  Our house faces the east so there was lots of light to come in and dispel the darkness.  But what was most interesting to me is what happened when the lights came back on.

Since we were getting ready for church I went ahead and let the shade back down and when I did I noticed something.  Remember we have room darkening shades... but the light coming in from outside was so bright I could still see the the outlines, shadows and distinct images of the trees outside of our window.  It was very clear that the light was shining through a tree.

It made me think about our lives as Christians.  As Christians, if you are walking in the light, walking with Jesus, you can never really totally pull the shade down and cover your life.  If you are walking with Jesus, even when you think things are at their darkest, He is right there with you.  Keep treasures of His word in your heart and even if life is trying to pull the shade down on you, His light will shine through you just like it shined through that darkening shade in my room.  It may not be as bright as you want it to be, but it's there. It's there enough to let you know that you are not alone.  He shines through your darkness and provides you with a light filled with warmth.  And no matter how dark it may seem at the time on the outside, God's light shines through you and out of you from the inside.  It shines so brightly that the darkening shade that might be your life cannot block it out and it's very clear who you are and Whose you are.

So no matter what may be going on in your life, remember that someone around you may be watching and noticing the light that shines forth through you. Just as we instinctively
reach for the light switch when the electricity goes off, we can instinctively reach for Him when we feel like our spiritual light is going out.  Because when you walk with God, even when you feel like you are in the dark, you still have His light shining through you.  So let your light shine... it just might shine brightly enough to break through someone's darkening shade!

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4,5

In the same way, let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Compassion & Caring... A Lost Art?

This morning was one of those mornings... I got in my car, started it, then when I turned on the air conditioner I heard a loud clank and the car died.  Fortunately, after a minute it started back up, but you couldn't turn the air on.  With thoughts of a 104 degree day and a 112 degree heat index, the thought of no air conditioning was not appealing.  So we began the trek of taking the car to the mechanic.

Chris drove the car and I drove our truck so we could both get back.  We stopped on the way to get gas in the truck (seems like every time we get in that thing it needs gas!!) and as Chris came around to put gas in it for me, I rolled down the window and said "fill er up"!  I remember going to the gas station when I was kid with my parents.  You pulled into the gas station, rolled down your window and a nice man came out to the car.  And that's what you would say, "fill er up".  Then they would ask if wanted your windows washed.  And... gas was around a whopping 36 cents a gallon!!

So, Chris gassed up the truck and we headed on our way.  The radio in the truck has been going out for a while and since we rarely drive it, we haven't replaced it yet.  Well, this morning, it didn't work at all.  So it gave me time to think; which was really quite nice!  As I sat in the quiet I thought about how things were when I was kid.  At gas stations, attendants pumped your gas and washed your windows.  At the grocery store, one person checked your groceries and another person bagged and carried them to the car for you.  Your mailbox was right by your front door so lots of times you talked to the mailman.  You actually interacted with people.

Now a days things are so different.  We go to the grocery store and we look for the self checkout.  Even if there are open lines where people are actually working the registers. We want to get it and get out.  It's like we are in stealth mode or something.  Get in and out before anyone sees you so you can be on your way!  I admit it, I am guilty!  I realize there are actually times when you really do have somewhere to be, but the problem with living like this everyday is no one knows how to talk to anyone anymore.  The problem with living like this is we don't interact with anyone around us.  Maybe that's why we find it so hard to see the hurting people around us.

People like to say we live in a microwave society.  We want everything fast.  And while that's true, I think we also live in what I would say is a very self centered society.  I think there are many ways in which we can be self centered but what I am talking about is how we never really stop and smell the roses any more (as they used to say).  We are always in such a rush, we don't want to take an extra second, let alone a few minutes to have a conversation with someone.

How are we supposed to see the hurting if we are never interacting with them?  How can we see the hurting if we never stop long enough to look them in the eye?  How can we feel their heartbreak if we don't stop and offer a kind word.

Jesus was able to see people because he was with people.  He was engaged with people.  He was there, in their lives talking to them, looking them in the eye, shaking their hand, putting his arm around them and they knew he could "see" them.

I wonder what it would look like if we started going about our day and thinking about how Jesus was with people.  Would we smile more when we passed someone?  Would we speak more?  Would we look people in the eye more?  Would we just simply show an interest in their lives?

How can we know that single mom is down to her last loaf of bread if we don't speak to her?  How can we know that someone's heart is hurting if we don't look into their eyes?  As I said before, I am guilty... Guilty of always being in a rush and of not wanting to take that extra second to speak because it might take longer than what I have time for at the moment.  But then what happens... the moment passes and then we've missed an opportunity to be Jesus to someone.  We've missed an opportunity to show them what it looks like for someone to care.  We've missed a chance to show compassion for someone else.

It doesn't take but a few minutes to show those you come in contact with that you care.  It doesn't take but a few minutes to show them what Jesus looks like with skin on. Those few minutes could be just what they needed to get through that day.

I'm am going to try and make every effort to change the cycle in my life.  I'm going to try and stop going into the self checkout when there are open lines with cashiers.  I'm going to try and look into people's eyes more often and try to see in them what Jesus would see in them.  And maybe they will see at least a little bit of Jesus through me.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself."  Matthew 27:37-39

"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."   1 Peter 3:8,9


Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Refresh" My Soul

This morning in our bible class we were continuing our study on "The Kingdom of God is Like..." and Psalm 23 was read as a reference.  I have known that Psalm by heart ever since my daughter learned it in a 4 year old bible class.  I think they learned the NASB version so I've always remembered it like this... "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quite waters.  He "restores" my soul."  This morning we were using the NIV and it says, He "refreshes" my soul.  I had never heard that before even though I haven't used the NASB version for many, many years.  I hadn't heard it because I had memorized that scripture years ago along with my daughter.  So every time it was read I never turned to it in my bible because I "knew" it by heart.  So I would just say it along it my head obviously without paying close attention to the words.

Don't get me wrong, I think memorizing scripture is great.  But I was reminded today that even when you have something memorized, there is still much to learn.  God's word is new every morning... even if you do have parts of it memorized.  I love that we have different translations of scripture.  Different words make you stop and think about things in a way you might not have thought about them before.  I love that the NIV says "refreshes" instead of "restores".  While my soul often longs to be restored, sometimes in the midst of trials, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of chaos, or in the midst of... you name the struggle, restores seems like something too far in the distance.  Restores seems like something I am unable to grasp, something intangible.  Sometimes restoring my soul seems like an uphill climb, a climb in which I may never reach the top.  Sometimes restoring in the midst of darkness seems like something that will never come.  But refreshes... ah... that is something I can cling too.  The word "refreshes"... just saying it sparks something new in me.  I may not feel like God is anywhere close to restoring my soul in certain times of darkness.  But I know that He never leaves me.  And to know that He "refreshes" my soul gives me just enough to keep going.  It gives me just enough to know that someday, He will restore my soul fully.

The NCV says, "He gives me new strength".  "New strength"... That's another word or words I can cling too.  When it seems that nothing is going right and you don't have any idea what's coming next, you might not even be able to think about "restores", but new strength I can sink my teeth into.  There have been many times when I didn't think I was going to make it, but God has sent me "new strength" for the task or journey that was at hand.  The Message says, "True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction."  "Catch my breath".... wow!  Sometimes that is all I have the strength to do is "catch my breath".   I love that.

I love that God's word can always bring something new and fresh.  I love that God's word let's me know that even when things are crazy, He is there.  I love that we have different translations to help give us a bigger picture of who He is.  Because while sometimes it may seem like my soul is far from being restored, I know that God is there... to help me "catch my breath", to "give me new strength" and to "refresh my soul".  So that one day, my soul can truly be "restored"!


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the
darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Thoughts

First of all, I want to say that I have the best husband and father to my children that anyone could ever hope to have.  He has walked with me down paths we didn't know we would take and he has been and Is my rock.  He is a wonderful father to both of my children and is a great example of what unconditional love means.  He is a wonderful father-in-law and he is an amazing "Pops" to a very special little girl.  I love him with all my heart and more than any words could ever say.  And there is no one on this earth I would rather "do life" life with.

But at the same time, Father's Day is always a day of mixed emotions for me.  I lost my dad when I was 12 and in 6th grade to cancer.  It was November of 1973, almost 40 years ago and to this day, I still miss him terribly.  Obviously over time it gets easier, but there are times when I am reminded of how much I truly miss him.  I missed him the day I got married; I missed him when my children were born and during the years they were growing up because he would have been the most amazing "Papa".  I missed him when Eisley was born because she would have just melted his heart.  I miss him during lots of times.  But Father's Day always makes miss him more and stirs up lots of feelings.  It makes me remember all the things I loved about him, but it always stirs up feelings of sadness for the time I missed with him.  It reminds me of the hole that's still in my heart.  And if I'm truly honest, there is even a little bit of bitterness there.  Bitterness because I didn't get enough time with him.  Bitterness because there are people who have had their dad for many, many years and yet they still complain about them and take them for granted.

But it also makes me mindful of others and the situations they have or didn't have with their fathers.  I'm mindful of those men who have not been able to have children for whatever reason but who would have made wonderful fathers.  I'm mindful of those children, who have fathers on paper but have never had a father in their life.  And it makes me grateful that I had one of those father's even if wasn't for as long as I would have liked.  I am mindful of those men who have children they want to be a father to but circumstances have not made that possible.  And I am especially mindful of those men who have children they have lost through death.  No parent should ever outlive their children and so on Father's Day, those men hold a special place in my heart.

One thing I have learned over the years is this... I may have lost my earthly father, but I still have a heavenly father who is there to share in my joys, to listen whenever I need to talk and he walks beside me no matter what struggle is going on in or around my life.  And He is there no matter what I may face in this world.  And because of Him, I know I will one day see my earthly father again.  Because of Him, I know that even though I am missing my dad here on earth, He is passing out hugs and kisses and being a dad to those children who have gone before their parents.  He is being a papa and giving piggy back rides and horsey rides on his knee to all of those precious babies that went way too soon.

If you are missing your earthly dad, you are not alone.  And I know that sometimes the sadness can be overwhelming.  But there is a father who wants to be there for you.  He wants to dry your tears.  he wants to hold you in His embrace.  Most of all He just wants to love you.  And no matter what happens in life He will always be there.

So whether you are a father, a grandfather or one of their children, don't waste a moment of the time God gives you with them.  There are no guarantees about tomorrow.  But there is a guarantee that no matter what happens, your heavenly father will be right be your side.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! 
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Finding Treasures that Shape our Thoughts and Actions

I'm sure I have mentioned many times how grateful and how blessed I am to be a part of the ministry team at Highland Oaks Church of Christ.  I know that I work for a church, but I also know that it is a rare thing for even church staffs to spend time on a regular basis in prayer and God's word together.  I am very blessed to be a part of such a group.  And even more blessed to be a part of a group who enjoys getting together and spending time with God and each other.

This week during out prayer time, Pat, our lead minister, gave us a prayer to read over and think about.  We often go through a process called Lectio Divina to help us focus on the words of the reading and what God is trying to tell us through it.  This week we read the following prayer by "Jacob Boehme".

Give me, dear Lord, a pure heart
and a wise mind, that I may
carry out my work according to your will.
Save me from all false desires, from pride,
greed, envy and anger, and let me 
accept joyfully every task you set before me.
Let me seek to serve the poor, the sad and those unable to work.
Help me to discern honestly 
my own gifts that I may do the things
of which I am capable, and happily 
and humbly leave the rest to others.
Above all, remind me constantly that
I have nothing except what you give me,
and can do nothing except
what you enable me to do.

As I read through that on Monday certain phrases stuck out for me.  Now, only 2 days later there are others that are staring me in the face. When we read the bible regularly, certain things we have read a million times can mean something totally different to us every time we read it.  It depends on what is going on in our life at that moment.  This prayer does the same thing for me. There are so many treasures in this prayer.  So many things to help slow our minds down and to help us focus on the things that matter.  Things that can direct us personally and things that can help us to see the world and those around us through the eyes of Jesus and not through the eyes of man.

I wonder what it would look like if we all prayed this prayer everyday.  If we prayed this prayer everyday anticipating and even expecting for God to meet us in this prayer.  I wonder what we would look like to the world and to those around us.  I wonder if our actions would change.  I wonder if we would begin to truly see what is going on all around us.  I wonder what our churches would begin to look like if all the members of churches were praying this prayer.  Would we look and smell different?  We would look and smell more like Jesus?  Would the things that break the heart of Jesus begin to break our hearts in ways we didn't even know were possible?  Would we begin to serve others and do things we never thought we would or even could do... things we didn't even think we were cable of doing?

I can't speak for other people, other churches, my own church, even my own family.  But I can speak for me.  I am challenging myself to pray this prayer daily.  To let the words sink in every day and to allow God to use the words to shape me and to mold me into who He wants me to be.  To train my eyes to see what He sees.  To train my heart to feel what He feels. He is God, and I am not.  But He can do things through me than I cannot even imagine and I want my heart to be open to receive whatever He wants to do with me.

Yet  you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blessed are Those Who Mourn, for They Will be Comforted

As I sit here at my desk this morning, I am finding it very difficult to focus on work as I think about all the devastation and weeping going on in Moore, Oklahoma.  Literally our neighbors.  I am a Christian who believes and trust in God, I work for a church, I am a parent and a grandparent and I am a child. Even still, it is all so hard to imagine.

I have close friends who have lost children and I have seen the agony and pain that brings.  I think about my own family and I cannot even fathom it.  The thought of kissing your children as the get out of the car for school in the morning, not realizing that the next kiss they receive would be from their heavenly father.

I just wrote a blog this week entitled "Through the Eyes of a Child" thinking about my granddaughter Eisley.  I cannot even imagine the pain of my own family, of my own daughter and son-in-law in the circumstances the parents of Moore are facing.  My heart literally aches for them.

The only thing I KNOW through all of this is this, He is God and I am not.  While I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, I know that God knows.  I know that He is right there beside them, wrapping them in His arms, holding them close to His heart.  My prayer is that each of these families, will feel God's presence in ways they never have before.  That even through the tragedy, especially because of the tragedy that they will not lose hope.  That they will cling to the Father like never before and that they will be able to have some peace in knowing their children are with Him.  That they will continue to praise God even in the storm that rages around them... because the tomb is empty!

Our dear friend Jenny Bizaillion went home to be with God a little over 3 years ago.  She absolutely adored and loved children with all her heart.  Her precious daughter Malaya was everything to her.  I can see her now surrounding each and every one of those precious children with her loving arms and covering each one of them with love and kisses.  Not only are they surrounded by their heavenly father God, but they have a heavenly mother in Jenny.  As my heart aches, those images make me smile through the tears.

May God bless each family beyond measure and give them the comfort that can only come from Him.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Through the Eyes of a Child

Ok, let me just start out by saying, yes I am an adult, and yes I LOVE Disneyworld!!  We recently spent 8 days at Disneyworld.  We also had the privilege of taking our daughter and son-in-law as well as our almost 2 year old granddaughter!  I cannot tell you how much that was!  Getting to see Disneyworld through the eyes of a 2 year old is special.  It's even more special when it's your own kids first time to experience it; and it is beyond amazing to see it through the eyes of your 2 year old granddaughter who is witnessing it all for the first time!  I am beyond blessed!

We have been home now for almost a week.  And as I look back through our pictures from the trip, the magic of it all is truly amazing.  Disney really knows how to do things right when it comes to kids.  They know what kids expect, they know what scares them, and they know how to react to them.  It's quite amazing.  My granddaughter Eisley, had a wonderful time.  We were all a little worried that the reality of all of the Disney characters might scare her.  But she absolutely loved it from day one.  She would get so excited with all of the anticipation of waiting for someone to come around the corner.  She loved the parades and would just clap and get excited waiting for the next character.  She loved the princesses and would just light up when she saw them!

As I reminisce about our trip and see the excitement in her face it reminds me of Jesus saying in scripture to let the little children come to Him.  Children have such pure joy and excitement.  They are not tainted by the harsh realities of the world.  They still see things with pure love and excitement.  Eisley was so excited to see and spend time with the Disney characters.  And it makes me think... as adults do we get that excited? 

There are some things we as adults get excited about.  Some of us get excited about Disney :-), some of get excited about sports, :-) some of get excited about music, some of us get excited about fill in the blank.  But... do we get excited about Jesus?  Do we get excited when we get to worship and sing praises to Him on Sunday morning?  Do we get excited when we take the time to sit with Him and soak in His word?  Do we get excited to sit and be still with Him?  Do we get excited when He opens a door for us and provides us with a wonderful opportunity to serve others?  Do we get excited when He puts people in our path that need Jesus with skin on?

Children see things in such a unique way.  Their excitement is genuine!  Their joy is contagious!  What would it look like if we looked forward to spending time with Jesus in the way Eisley looks forward to seeing Pooh and the Disney princesses.  What would it look like if we were always that excited to run to Him and spend time with Him by studying His word.  What would it look like to be that excited to sit in the quiet and be still with Him.  If we got half as excited about spending time with Jesus as we get watching sports, seeing a concert, spending time at Disney, etc, we just might be able to experience Jesus through the eyes of a child.  We just might get to experience Jesus in a whole new way.  We just might be able to experience the pure joy of being in His presence, the joy of knowing that He is in control of our lives.

The thing is, once you begin to spend more time with Him, the more you "want" to spend time with Him.  The more you spend time with Him, the more excited you get when you get an extra chance to be with Him.  The more you spend time with Him, the more you will choose Him over other things.

I pray that we will all be able to experience Jesus with the eyes and excitement of a child.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Choosing to Love...

Working in a church you see all kinds of things come through the mail.  Some times things come through the mail from other churches or "religious leaders" that just have me scratching my head.  They claim to be all about Christ and living the way Christ lived, yet their entire publication does nothing but put labels on people who do not worship "exactly" as they worship and do not "do things" exactly as they do things.

This is going to be short because I do not want to be one of those people.  What I want to say is this... If those who stand back and critique or criticize and judge others, would spend one fourth of the time they spend talking about others and start reaching out to their community, reaching out to help the poor, just treating people with kindness and love, they would not have the time to write such judgemental things.

Yes, we may have differences in styles, we may have differences in many things, but if we are all following God's word, the "style" in which which follow God's word is not what's important.  What's important is that we are following God's word.  It is important to follow Jesus and His teachings, not teachings of men.  It is important to love others and not to judge them, that's God's job.  It is important to help those in need, not to judge their reasons for that need.  Jesus says to "Love One Another".  He doesn't say love them if they look and smell like you.  He doesn't say love them if they do things the way you do them.  He doesn't say love them if they have the same social status as you.  He doesn't say love them if... fill in the blank.  He simply says, "Love Them".  Our job is to be Jesus with skin on to the world. Our job is to Love as Jesus loved.  I just don't see Jesus in some of the publications I see.  If we start with Love, all the other "stuff" won't matter nearly as much.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34,35


Monday, April 01, 2013

Reflections on Easter

I have been reflecting a lot the last few days on this Easter season.  I am so grateful for my church, Highland Oaks Church of Christ for many reasons.  The people there are amazing, their love for God and His people is evident and this Easter and the week prior I became event more grateful.  The way our ministry staff continually chooses to think outside of the box and the way in which they allow God to speak through them blesses me everyday.  But this Easter season was amazing.

One thing we have done the last couple of years is offer a prayer experience the week prior to Easter.  There are 8 stations set up in our Fellowship Hall that intentionally and purposefully direct you to Jesus and the cross.  Some of the stations are listening to specific music while allowing God to take you into His space, some of them are reading God's word and then asking yourself specific questions about what you've read, some of them require you to use different senses, but all of them require you to sit and be still with Him.  It takes about an hour to go through all eight stations. I finally was able to participate in this experience this passed Thursday.  I cannot tell you the blessing it was to me.  To be able to take an hour and go through the stations and just spend time resting with God's word and allowing Him to fill my soul was amazing.

On Friday, we had a Good Friday Memorial Service called "an there was darkness".  It was more than I could have ever anticipated.  There was funeral procession of "the family" of Jesus.  One of our ministers lead the procession carrying a cross with a veil draped over it that was placed at the front.  Then we heard from "the prostitute" who Jesus saved from stoning, "Simeon Peter" who denied Jesus 3 times and "Jesus' mother Mary" as each one told their story and how they felt like it was their fault that Jesus was dead.  We were also told to go through the service imagining that we did not know that Sunday was coming.  To imagine as if we were there on that day not knowing what was to come.

That service was more overwhelming that I could have ever imagined.  To put yourself in a frame of mind of not knowing that Sunday was coming and to witness the testimonies of those who walked with Jesus, and to imagine that His death was the end was something I really cannot describe.  There is such darkness, such hopelessness, such sorrow when you have no hope of a savior.  Our family has gone through some personal struggles over the last several years.  The thought of having no hope during those times was overwhelming.  I would not have made it without my faith; without knowing that God is control; without knowing that the tomb is empty and that because of that truth that all things are possible!

On Sunday, we had an amazing message and testimony of God's grace and faithfulness working among us.  We have windows that surround the balcony of our worship center.  As the message concluded and promise of the empty tomb was proclaimed, the shades to those windows were lifted and the light burst forth and shined brightly across the worship center as though Christ himself had lit up the room.  It was amazing; it was emotional; it was evidence of the empty tomb!

The hope that comes from the resurrection is the only thing that gets me through on days when it seems like God is silent, when it seems like he's far away.  And it's because of that hope that I can look back and see that even when I thought God was silent, He right there every step of the way.  Some things can only be explained by the grace of God.  Without the hope of the resurrection, there is no hope.

I am thankful and grateful for that hope!  I cling to that hope always!  The tomb is empty my friends!  And because of that, we all have hope... always!  That's truth!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you!  
1 Peter 1:3,4a


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Do We Live in the Twilight Zone?

It seems like every year during the holidays there is ALWAYS a Twilight Zone Marathon being played on TV.  Chris and I have always loved the Twilight Zone.  Some might say we were obsessed with it!  At one point before we had kids the Twilight Zone came on fairly regularly on TV.  We used to record every episode so that we could get the collection of all of them.  I know this really dates me, but this was back in the days of VHS tapes and there was no such thing as being able to "buy" TV shows!  (Who knew!!)

Even today, every time we see an episode on we get totally engrossed in the episode.  I know this is weird, but we usually even know the name of the episode just by seeing what's going on without looking at the info button!  So... when there was a marathon on over New Years, we found ourselves watching numerous episodes.

Most of the original Twilight Zone episodes, were made it black and white; which tells you how long ago they were made.  At the end of every episode Rod Serling always had a moral to the story that had just played out on the screen.  What was interesting to me in watching it this time was how relevant the "topics" and "morals" of the stories still were today.

From people being forced to have plastic surgery to look like everyone else, to a librarian being called obsolete (even back then) as well as others being called obsolete just because certain people didn't deem them necessary anymore, to people so afraid of what might be happening to them, that they chose to believe everything that came out of a physic machine, to people thinking that because they looked different than everyone else that somehow meant there was something wrong with them that needed to be fixed, and on and on I could go.

Who would have thought that all of the topics from a TV show in the 1960's (actually it started in 1959 - which by the way was before I was born!)  :-) would still be so relevant today.  Who would have thought that you could watch those shows 40+ years later and still find great value and ways to live in them.

Any yet... isn't it the same with God's Word?  The bible was written about events that took place thousands of years ago and yet if we take the time to read it, it is still relevant today in every aspect of our lives.  From teaching us how we should treat others, to telling us how to help those around us, to telling us not to judge others because they might be different than we are, to showing us the many ways that God worked and still works today, and on and on I could go.

It's really easy to get caught up in a TV show.  Maybe it's time we get just as caught up in reading God's word.  It's still relevant today.  It can still teach you a great deal.  You can read a passage that you thought you knew and it can mean something totally different to you based on what's going on in your life which makes it fresh and new every day.  It still tells us how to love others and that above all things God is about Love.

Maybe in 2013 we can get back to what God commands.  To Love everyone, to not judge others, to put others before ourselves and again LOVE!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 4-8, 13