Saturday, May 31, 2014

Under the Apple Tree

I've been visiting with a woman lately who has lots of troubles.  At first appearances, she seems very troubled, slow, or mentally unstable.  But this week, I'd been asking God to give me compassion...not particularly for this woman, but for my life in general.  And God answered that prayer and pierced my heart with a peek into another heart.

Sally (not her real name) came to visit me and as we talked, she began to cry.  She told me about her younger sister who was born with Down's Syndrome in a day when children with Downs were often institutionalized.  But she took me back to the days before her sister went to live in "that home," as she described it.

Sally loved to create houses for her dolls out of cardboard boxes.  She would take these boxes, her dolls, and her little sister and there they would play for hours under the apple tree.  Sally said her sister never learned to she talked enough for both of them.  They played and played and Sally talked and talked.  They would stay under the apple tree all day...or at least until her mother called them home.  And then they'd repeat the process the next day.

Sally told  me how hard it was (through her tears) when her little sister went to live in "that home."  She lost her best friend...and she didn't even really understand what was happening.  She couldn't comprehend why she couldn't take care of her little sister and play with her every day.  She insisted she could have talked for her sister.  They just wanted to play under the apple tree.

Sally told me she suffers from mental illness and has for most of her life.  I saw in this older woman, who has lots of problems functioning in our world, a little girl full of pain, scars, and grief.  She cried as she told me she never had a friend at school...someone to just love her.  She never received any kind of award or honor like the other kids.  She never felt normal.  It just makes me wonder if her brokenness began when she could no longer take a little sister to play under the apple tree.

Yes...God pierced my heart.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Undetected by Dee Henderson

It's no secret that Dee Henderson is one of my favorite authors---and she didn't disappoint in her newest fiction book!  This book is about a submarine commander, Mark Bishop, who is a widower and ready to marry again.  He wants someone to come home to after a 3-month patrol on the USS Nevada.  He's known Gina Gray several years because she's the younger sister of a fellow-commander.  Gina is a genius.  She entered college at the age of 14 and holds several doctoral degrees--and she's determined to use her knowledge to keep her brother safe while he's at sea.  She's a civilian who has had several breakthroughs that changes the way the Navy operates.  Mark takes a second look at Gina and begins his greatest maneuvers in trying to win her heart.

I love reading Dee Henderson's books about the military.  I find it very interesting because she seems to have a grasp on all aspects--the military at sea and the loved ones at home.  The creative ideas Dee has in this book which Gina comes up with are so simple and yet seem substantial and viable.  And Dee also deals with the issue of the ideas which help our military can also be discovered by other countries and used against us in conflict.  I only hope Dee didn't give away any military secrets!

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars for content and readability.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Autographed Books Being Given Away!

Hop on over to Andy's Facebook page to share his post about his giveaway for a chance to win one of five free autographed books!  The opportunity ends tonight at midnight!!

I'm so proud of Andy.  God definitely gifted him to write this book.  Sidenote:  Andy minored in English in college--and you'd never know by reading this book that he is dyslexic.  That just means he had to work a bit harder to put his thoughts down.

We're so amazed by God's plan.  Andy wrote this book to get the facts straight.  Several people had written articles about his kidnapping which were inaccurate.  And he wanted to write it for his kids and grandkids to have.  We never dreamed that his book would be outranking other books printed by major publishing companies on Amazon...before it's even released!!  That's amazing.  And for Andy to be asked to tell about his experience on Huffington Post?  Where did that come from??  

You can check out Andy's website here.  You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  We're pretty excited--only 22 days til release date!

I hope you win one of the five autographed books!  But if you don't, they're not all that expensive.  ;)   We'd be forever grateful if you'd help us get the word out.   Share his website.  Share this blog.  Share Andy's post--maybe a friend will win a book!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Galaxy by Matt Dietz

If you haven't downloaded Matt's album yet, I hope you will.  You can go here and get it at iTunes.  Or you can go to Amazon or Google Play and find it.

Of course, as Matt's mom, I'm proud.  Matt has always been a gifted song writer (he wrote each of these songs) and I've blogged about that before here and here.  But it's so much more than that.  I'd like to tell you what this album means to me.  My son is back...and he's walking with God like never before.  This album has REDEMPTION written all over it.  It's a story of a son who ran from God at full-speed but came back.  It's the story of a mom who needed to learn about grace and incorporate it in her life.  It's the story of a family restored who came in unity and brought it to the table for this album.  This album is all that and more.  It's full of worship, praise, love, longing and profound thought.

I'm asking God to put it in the hands of parents who need hope with their prodigals (and maybe need to learn about grace), in the hands of the prodigals themselves, in the hands of families needing forgiveness and restoration, and in the hands of those who have come out of the pit and need to be washed in grace.

This album is about love, grace, mercy and hope.  And it's so needed right now.  I encourage you to download it for you--hear what God wants to speak to your heart.  Parents, please download this album on your kids' phones so they listen to it over and over.  I'm asking God to anoint it to encourage kids spiritually.  Your kids live in a drought-filled world and need the message of Let It Rain. They need to know God's love is a Galaxy.  We all do.'s just good music.

Thanks to all who have purchased it.  Please pray God uses it for His glory!

My mother-heart is full.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Panhandle People facing Disaster

The area in red is the Texas panhandle.  Just think of Texas as a's where you'd naturally hold the pan--the pan.handle.

People in the Texas panhandle are a different breed.  I was born and raised (not reared) in the area in red.  We panhandle people are resilient, tough, adaptable and very much in-control.  Panhandle people are so tough, we've just now admitted we're in a drought.  We've been told for 5 years we're in a drought, but we're just now admitting it.  We adapt.  If cotton and wheat won't grow in a drought, we begin looking for something that will.  Or we begin figuring out how we can sell tumbleweeds.  (Yes, they're real.)

The people in Fritch have proven how resilient we are.  They suffered through an F4 tornado in 1992.  It was terrifying and very destructive.  It took time to clean up and rebuild after that tornado.  It was a flash in the pan as far as the media and nation were concerned.  It didn't matter.  The people pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and linked arms and made it.

Sunday night, a fire broke out in Fritch.  I heard one lady say it was like a black wall cloud was rolling down her street and she thought it was just a block away (the fire didn't come near her).  Andy & I had been to Borger that day and we heard there was a fire in Fritch (15 miles away) and as we were driving home, we saw the smoke.  In fact, I took this photo of it:

This small community has been hit hard.  I was there yesterday and saw the people of Fritch pulling together once again.  They've surrounded their wounded and are ready to defend them and protect them at all costs.

They hurt for their neighbors.  They didn't wait for Red Cross, Salvation Army or the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team to show up.  They just went to work helping those who were displaced.  Individuals and churches in Fritch & Borger immediately began reaching out and helping.  There were so many ways neighbors were helping neighbors, I know I'd miss something if I tried to enumerate everything that's been done.  

Let me just say the fire victims were taken care of immediately as they were put in motels, given gift bags and gift cards at the motel.  Snacks were taken to each motel.  A clothing and food operation was opened in Fritch for those in need.  Prom dresses were provided for girls who lost prom dresses.  Hair cuts and styling were offered.  Corsages and boutonnieres were offered by two different flower shops for Fritch prom go-ers. A local inflatable business offered a day of fun to the families who were anxiously waiting for the fire to be put out and to get back into the affected area.  Homes were opened.  Meals were cooked, pizzas were delivered, volunteers stepped up.  It was amazing and just a little overwhelming!

And can I just say the fire fighters in the Texas panhandle are some of the toughest heroes you would ever hope to meet?  If I could, I'd make a Superman cape for each one.  They saved as many houses in the path of the fire as were lost.  They fought hard.  In fact, they were busy evacuating people so they could fight that fire.  Not one life was lost due to the fire.  NOT ONE!

Here's what I hope the tough, resilient, adaptable and very much in-control people of Fritch will do...I hope they'll let the rest of us help. There's something in all of us which wants and needs to give and help when we see someone hurting.  That's why so much help has been offered.  We NEED to help! 

Fritch, it will be your turn to help some of the rest of us some day in the future.  We hope you'll let us help you today.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Disaster Relief for Fritch

Years ago, I wrote this article after helping in disaster relief after hurricane Katrina.  I'm reposting it with the fires in Fritch in mind (which have destroyed over 100 homes and burned over 2500 acres!).  Please read it and I'll post a few new comments at the bottom.

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, a group of us from Borger went to help with the clean-up near New Orleans, Louisiana.  I learned a lot on that trip.  Gayle White & I worked under a tent all day sorting clothing.  Next to us was a tent where they handed out toiletries.

Here's what I learned.  PLEASE, PLEASE do not send your cast-off clothing!  Go to Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penney and buy NEW socks, underwear, boots or tennis shoes, jeans, shorts and t-shirts--in ANY size--but especially adult sizes.  (Flip-flops are not useful in debris!)  Many of these stores will give you a handsome discount when they know you're sending things to Fritch for the fire victims.  Go to Ace, Lowe's or Home Depot and buy work gloves, buckets, face masks, and work goggles and send them to Fritch.  Same for the discounts...just ask!  Then go to CVS and Walgreens and buy soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, razors and shaving cream, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream and send it.  Ask for a discount--or use coupons and get them free!  (You might even go to motel chains and ask for their toiletry samples.)  Then go to United Supermarkets and Affiliated and buy baby food, formula and individually packaged snacks and send it.  Again...ask for a discount.  Everyone wants to help!!

What we found in that tent in Lousiana was a boatload of un-useful things!!  We spent HOURS wading through coats, prom dresses, and totally useless stuff.  IT'S HOT!!!!  No one wants your coats or prom dresses.  And wading through that kind of junk eats up the time volunteers could be using to do more helpful things.  When victims came to our clothing tent, they were mostly looking for t-shirts, underwear, and socks.  Buy bulk packages in all sizes.  It will be very much appreciated!!!  And for goodness' sake, tie shoes together!!!  We worked on a 6 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft box full of shoes not paired up.  I don't have to tell you how frustrated we were!!

Think, think, and think again when you're sending things to help.  Will it really be helpful?  Will this consume volunteers' time?  How can I best package this to make it easy for everyone?  (Gallon size  bags with a variety of toiletries per family is really helpful!)  And most importantly...will it really get there?  Some organizations don't automatically send your donations to the disaster site.  It may be put in a store or kept in their disaster donation storage.  Trust who you send your things through--to get it where you want it to go when you want it to get there.

SEND NEW THINGS!  Ask yourself, "Is this something I would want?  Would I wear this?  Will this be helpful?"  Then...send those things.  

*Here's an organization you can trust which will be helping fire victims (I am the former director of this Christian benevolence agency).  Instead of sending the clothing, toiletries, water and food to Fritch, you can take it all to Living Water in Borger who will distribute it to those victims only 15 miles away.  You  can know they will gladly be helping the victims of the fire.  They serve all of Hutchinson County and the area knows this agency well--and its reputation for helping--and will automatically be sending people to them for help.  They will accept your SUMMER gently-used clothing Monday-Thursday from 9-3.  The best thing you can do is bring them clean and folded and put in kitchen-size trash bags according to men, women or children and clearly marked. and women working in charred remains will be looking for jeans, boots, tennis shoes, socks, and work gloves--new or gently used.  If you have any of those things, please deliver them to Living Water!!  YOU CAN TRUST THIS AGENCY!!  Over 100 families have lost EVERYTHING!  Not only will Living Water help the victims, they will be sharing the love of Jesus with them.  Donate your TIME to Living Water---they're going to need extra hands to sort the clothing which comes in.  LIVING WATER HAS NO MORE ROOM FOR CLOTHING AT THIS TIME!  The best thing to do is donate money.

Living Water Benevolence Ministry, Inc.
103 W. 4th St.
Borger, TX 79007
Director:  Selena McClellan

The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team said they are going to need people to help clean out in the next couple of weeks and are willing to train on-site!

I'm challenging everyone in our area to stay tuned.  I'm sure we're going to hear in the days ahead of specific needs in regard to furniture and household goods people will be needing as they find a new place to live.  Honestly?  I've never seen more storage buildings as I have in the past few years.  If all of us just cleared out our storage buildings, we'd be able to set up all 100 homes with nice, used furniture!!  Let's be the hands and feet of Jesus!

If you know someone who lost everything and you have photos of them you can share, consider making them copies or creating a photo book for them.  A gift of love.

Pray, pray, and pray some more.  People are in shock.  Their loss is great!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

I am very grateful for my mom!
"Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

My mom is on the far left.  She's pictured here with her three sisters.  She also had 4 brothers who are not pictured.  Mom tells the story of the Dust Bowl Days.  She was only about 3-years-old when a big dust storm came up and she was outside.  They lived in a camp and the houses all looked alike--and she got turned around in the dust storm and didn't know which house was hers.  A neighbor picked her up and took mom into her house and sat her down and fed her bread and gravy--and reunited her with her family after the dust settled.  My grandmother was certain she'd been kidnapped and was nearly frantic--and could never be quite convinced that the neighbor hadn't taken her with ill intent.

My mom and dad married in 1951 when mom was still in high school.  She finished playing high school basketball as Mrs. Sanders.

She gave birth to four children--Bob, Becky, Gary & Sandra.  She thought she was "old" when she had Sandra--she was all of 32-years-old!

This is a picture of 4 generations--Mom, Amy, Olivia & Me.  My mom is 81-years-old and can still work circles around me!  Two years ago, Jay & Amy had just adopted Hadassah and were moving across town and had no one to help them.  I asked my mom if she wanted to go help and she jumped on it.  My daughter-in-law, Lindsey, went with us and we worked hard.  Mom would pack boxes and I would load and transport them to the new house where Jay unloaded and Amy & Lindsey unpacked and put things in place.  It was quite the system!  She would have enough boxes packed for a new load by the time I would get back.  She is one hard worker!!

This is mom with 8 of her 10 grandkids.  Her grandchildren are stairstep in ages.   The oldest is 40 and the youngest is 11.  They call her Granny or Gran.  Matt & Amy were her first two grandkids (an older grandchild would come later) and they spent a lot of time at her house when they were young.  They often begged to live with Granny during that time.

These are mom's 10 great-grandchildren!  (I'm the only one with far!)  Her youngest grandchild fits in line after her first 2 great-grandchildren.  (We continued the stairstep thing!)  They call her Granny.

My mom began teaching Child Evangelism (Good News Clubs) 50 years ago--and teaches to this day.  I was 8-years-old when she began teaching.  I remember when I was in the 6th grade and was instructed to write what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I knew I wanted to be a mom.  God put that in my heart at a very young age.  But I knew I wanted to be more than that.  I wanted to be like my mom---a mom "with purpose"!  So I wrote that I wanted to be a missionary like my mom.  (I'm sure my teacher was a little confused.)  But I knew my mom was a missionary by sharing the Good News with kids.  She's taught it in homes, churches, schools, missions and even in a little portable chapel.  There's no telling how many children have sat under her teaching.

Mom didn't slow down when my dad went to be with the Lord.  She began volunteering at a benevolence ministry a couple of days each week.  She's part of a group of ladies who meet to eat and play games once a week.  She's cared for many friends in their illnesses.

If I were to describe my mom in one word it would be a "doer."  She's a hard worker, isn't afraid of a challenge, and you very seldom find her sitting down.  I remember as a kid that she would mop our house every day, bake every day, and on Saturdays she made sure our clothes and shoes were ready for Sunday, our hair was curled, and pies and bread were made for Sunday lunch.  She would fix a big breakfast every Sunday and also put a roast in the oven for lunch.  She helped dad put in a garden every summer and would cook or can the vegetables from that garden.  She babysat kids occasionally who would just fit in with the rest of us four kids.  She opened our home to others.  My aunt and her four kids lived with us for a few months, my great-grandmother lived with us one summer and almost every Sunday night we had family friends at our house.  She had "42 parties" lots of weekends and "singin's" often.  She opened our home for Teen-Age Bible Classes and we always knew our friends were welcome at our house.  I learned how to be hospitable from her example.

Two things I've never doubted...Mom loves God...and she loves her family!
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
I love you!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom by Laura Petherbridge

I had no idea how hard it is to be a stepmom before I read this book!  Honestly!!  The only thing I can say is that the stepmoms I've known have made it look easy.  This is a concise, well-written, easy-to-read book that can be managed in one sitting.  Or take one tip at a time and meditate on it.  There's a very practical questionnaire at the end of the book for those considering marrying a divorced man with children.

In this book, Laura deals with practical things like loving your own children more than your stepchildren.  She's honest and forthright.  She raises the issue of dealing with the ex-wife--schedules, money, lies, and the emotional health of the children.  She's not afraid to touch the places that hurt most and teaches us to deal with them in truth and love.

The thing I came away with after reading this book (I was reared in a non-divorce home and I've never been divorced) is compassion for those trying to make a second marriage work.  There are challenges in a second marriage I'd never considered.  I'd never imagined how hard it would be to balance stepchildren and your own children--trying to make everyone feel received and loved--and to take care of your own emotional health in the process.  I'd never thought about a stepmom feeling left out because of a father giving so much to his children--or refusing to discipline his children--possibly because of his own guilt issues.  Or the devastation a stepmom can feel after a stepchild moves in with their mother after the stepmom may have invested so much in that child.  Laura also mentions how the church is ill-equipped to deal with stepmoms and may even bring on condemnation instead of healing.

Even though some of the issues are unique to a second marriage, I also saw how Satan uses whatever is at hand to destroy us all.  And even though Laura was speaking from the perspective of a stepmom, I saw that some of the issues she faced are some of the same I've faced--but just coming from a different perspective.

I highly recommend this book!  I give it a 5 out of 5 stars--for readibility and content.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Thought continued from yesterday....

How often do we deny the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives?   

There's the ultimate denial of the power of the Holy Spirit (which is what II Timothy 3:5 is really talking about) which produces an unbeliever.  God tells us to avoid people who act religious but have no power.  That's pretty strong stuff!!  But those are the people who want to entangle us in legalism--to the rules and regulations of religion.  There's a reason God wants us to avoid them--that's not what He wants for our lives!  He came to break us out of that bondage and bring us life and freedom!  Jesus called these legalists a brood of vipers.  He's pretty serious about avoiding these people.

But then there's the believer who avoids the power of the Holy Spirit.  That was me for years.  I grew up in a denomination which taught us to fear the Holy Spirit.  We were all about the Word (which is good--but is full of the Holy Spirit, by the way!).  My denomination saw the abuses in other denominations (which threatened to spill over into ours) and it snapped down its tent corners so the Holy Spirit knew He wasn't welcome.  Were there abuses in those other denominations?  Yes.  But I wonder which is worse--people who are open to the Holy Spirit and imagine things He hasn't instigated or people who never allow Him in?  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman and won't go where He's not welcome.   But let me also say here that there were denominations teaching the truth about the Holy Spirit during that time and walking in freedom.

Jesus told us the Holy Spirit was coming and he would teach us, guide us, counsel us, help us, comfort us, bring truth from the Father to us, strengthen us, and intercede and advocate for us.  And yet many believers walk alone--without all of that help.  They've rejected the power of the Holy Spirit.  They want to do it themselves.  And they can; He lets them.  But what that means is they never have the power of the Spirit working in their lives and they will never have the fruit of the Spirit.  We can't "work up" the fruit's a natural overflow from allowing the Holy Spirit to have control of our lives.

I remember when I went to God and opened my heart and confessed to Him, "God, You're going to have to help me.  I'm afraid of the Holy Spirit.  I don't want to be, but I am.  Please help me get past my fear and receive all He has for me."  That's all it takes.  God very gently began opening my heart to see the power that was available to me.  

But it's a battle--because it's all about control.  Do I give up and allow the Spirit to control my life (walking in the Spirit)  or do I control myself (walking in the flesh)?  I've been walking in the Spirit for many years now, but I still have to make a conscious choice to ask for the power of the Spirit in my life--and submit to it.  I can be going along and realize I'm making lots of decisions for myself, my ministry, my family which are pure flesh--what I can do.  It shakes me!  Because I want to see the power of God--what only He can do in my life and all around me.

There are some books I can recommend.  I'm reading Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala right now.  Years ago, I read Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere and intend to re-read it this week.  Last week, Zach told me about The Holy Spirit--an Introduction by John Bevere.  It will be next on my reading list.

I encourage you to open your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit.  There's power when you do!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

All that current and nothing plugged in...

II Timothy 3:1-5
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."

I wanted to give you context for the verse that has been bothering me the past few days.  Bothering me like a splinter in my finger which I keep trying to dig at and can never quite get.

It's this part:  having a form of godliness but denying its power.   I had to ask myself if I was denying the power available to me--the power of the Holy Spirit.  I'd like to ask you the same question.  Have you been denying the power available to you?

All of that current running through us and nothing plugged in.

More to come...