Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Expectations

It's so hard to not have expectations for the picture-perfect Christmas!  We see the Hallmark movies, magazine spreads, Pinterest ideas, and see what other families are doing on Facebook...and we may be setting ourselves up for failure if we're expecting all of that and more!  May I make some suggestions and point out some potential hazards to rid you of unrealistic expectations?

  1. When you get lots of people together who have different personalities, varied family traditions, and their own expectations, there may be conflict.  In fact, expect it.  This doesn't mean that there has to be an explosion...it just means you need to be prepared to GRACE one another!  In fact, purpose in your heart ahead of time to grace, laugh with, and love those knuckleheads you love most in the world.
  2. When each of our children got married, we gave them the gift to be where they wanted for the holidays: "We bless you to be where you want for Christmas or any holiday.  If you choose to come to our home, we'll be very excited.   But if you want to create your own family traditions, we release you to do that.  And if you need to be with other family, we totally understand.  In fact, if no one comes home for Christmas, don't worry about us--we'll go on a cruise or something!"  And they have.  (You have to mean it when you say it!)  There's not a better feeling than to be released to do what you want.  And the less pressure your children feel, the more likely they are to come home for a visit.  In fact, if you demand that your family come to your house, it's like you've put a stranglehold on them and your experience will be minimized.  Give up any manipulation or control.  Release them instead!! 
  3. You may expect those you love to have listened all year long to the hints you've dropped and gotten you that perfect gift!  What happens when they don't?  It can ruin your Christmas experience.  This is going to sound so simplistic, but...give your desires to God.  One of my favorite birthdays was when I asked God to give me a birthday gift.  I had absolutely no expectations from anyone else.  And as I opened a gift from Andy (something I'd admired months before), God whispered to my heart, "Happy birthday, Becky!"  God gave me a gift...and it was a thoughtful gift through my husband--who doesn't typically plan ahead.  But I'd released him of any expectations beforehand which made it even more special.
  4. We may envision ourselves in the kitchen with all of our daughters cooking, cleaning, laughing, and having fun!  The reality may be that their children make demands on them at that very moment.  My advice is to keep things simple!!  Don't create a lot of work for yourself or anyone else.  My girls suggested sharing the cooking responsibilities a few years ago and it's made it so easy!  And after one good meal of turkey, who doesn't want some pizza delivered??
  5. One of the best decisions we ever made was to never put any gifts on a credit card.  I'm sure everyone is much more responsible than me, but it just wasn't fun paying for Christmas a month after we'd given the gifts--especially if some of those gifts were already broken.  It's such a good feeling to not face debt after Christmas! 
  6. Wouldn't it be amazing if we raised a generation of kids who had no expectations?  It's fun to delight them and watch their eyes glow!  And we need that...and they need to see us have the same heart as the Father Who gives good gifts.  But I've had kids tell me this year that they really don't need or want anything.  I think our culture is longing to learn how to give.  Motivate your children to give.  Do it as a family!  Find a family with needs and help them.  It will become a treasured family memory.  I'm hopeful as I watch this generation!
  7. I've found myself trying to meet expectations no one has, have you?  I've spent hours making candy no one eats.  Or I've looked and looked for a special gift I think someone should want and it's tossed aside.  I've invited a friend over for our celebration when my family would have preferred a simpler evening.  I think the best advice I can offer here is: ASK!  Don't assume.  
  8. Don't feel like you have to have House Beautiful for your family get-together.  In fact, I've found this to work best:  Make a modest attempt at cleaning before everyone comes.  Deep clean afterwards as you're putting up your decorations.
  9. Embrace the moments.  Take time to soak up your children's or grandchildren's experiences. Don't be so busy or concerned with food or "stuff" that you miss it!   
  10. Pray....and rest.  Pray before everyone comes...and rest before they come.  Find moments while they're all there to send up quick requests.  If you're like me, you may need to escape a few minutes and just be with your own thoughts.  (I never knew it had a name:  stimulation overload!)
God wants to bless our families this Christmas.  I'm praying each of you has your home filled with fun, laughter, love, and unity this year.  

Merry Christmas from My House to Yours!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Papa, the Gas Station, & Politics

The Guys at the Gas Station--Papa Childress standing on the right

Much of who we are is determined by the time we're 8-years-old, right?  And by the time I was 8-years-old, I'd learned not to go with Papa Childress to the gas station.  I mean...it was tempting!  Once.  Just once, for me.  It was the promise of a bottle of Coke and a bag of peanuts.  But that few minutes of ecstasy was eclipsed by hours of hanging around the gas station listening to old men talk.  They mostly talked about politics and I was bored out of my ever-lovin' mind!!  My brothers, on the other hand, loved going with Papa to the gas station.  I could only surmise it was a guy-thing.  After my one learning session at the gas station, I chose to stay home with Granny.

My 8-year-old brain hasn't gotten over an aversion to sitting around and talking about politics.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Search for Fame

It's pretty evident we all want to be famous.  It used to be that very few ever became widely known for something great--and it would take years to achieve true success.  But social media seems to be changing all of that.  People are achieving notoriety overnight through YouTube videos or by creating personas on Instagram.  You can even hire people to increase your following instantly.  There's something innate in all of us--I don't care who you are--to want to be "known."

A verse was ringing in my head this morning.  Colossians 1:27.  "He has kept this secret for centuries and generations past, but now at last it has pleased him to tell it to those who love him and live for him, and the riches and glory of his plan are for you Gentiles, too.  And this is the secret: Christ in your hearts is your only hope of glory."

I was overcome with emotion as I began to think on the King of kings--ALL of HIM---living in my heart!!  Think about it.  The God of the universe.  How in the world is He contained in my heart?  ALL OF HIM!!!!  All of His power.  All of His riches.  All of His knowledge.  All of His possessions.  All of Who He is!  All of that is in my heart.  How dare I try to rule over that?  How dare I try to exert my desires over His?  How dare I decide my own way?  HOW DARE I?!?!?

But when I express Who He is through my own life, my body, my mind, my will, my emotions...
He becomes famous.
He is lifted up.
He is praised.
He is exalted.
He is seen.
His way becomes important.
He is preeminent.
He is in the spotlight.
He is talked about.
He is conspicuous.
He is celebrated.
He is championed.

That's my hope of fame and glory...to make Him famous.

Friday, December 4, 2015


Focus.  Or I could say, drown out all of the noises around you.  The best, and most important, thing you can do in these days is get alone, read the Word of God, and listen.

One day, I was walking down a sidewalk talking to God and waiting to hear Him.  All at once, He asked me (in that still small voice in my head), "Becky, what do you hear?"  I told Him I heard dogs barking, kids playing, birds singing, a motorcycle revving it's engine, and a car honking."  He asked me, "Were all of those noises there a minute ago?"  I had to admit they were.  And then He asked an all-important question:  "Why didn't you hear them?"  My reply was, "Because I wasn't tuned in."  It was a great lesson to teach me to tune in to His voice.

I encourage you to stop.  Take a deep breath.  Open your Bible and read--asking the Holy Spirit to teach you.  He will...that's His job.  And then listen.  Focus.  Tune in.  God's voice is all you need to hear.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Secret Life of Pastors

Too often, pastor's lives aren't as they appear when they're behind the pulpit.  And I'm not talking about moral issues...although I could.  I'm sure each of you could cite examples of pastors who have had affairs or been exposed in some sexual sin.  But what I want to talk about is how pastors are hurting or are weighed down or overwhelmed with life and feel like they have nowhere to turn.  It's becoming more and more common.  We could talk about the broken structure of our churches, but until it's fixed...we have a problem.

I read an article tonight of a pastor who took his life, and although it happened two years ago, the seriousness of the situation is just as pertinent today--if not more so.  You see, pastors are givers.  There's a reason many are called "ministers"--because that's what they do.  They minister to you and to as many members of their congregation as they possibly can.  And they feel like they're failing much of the time.  There's always one more person to see, one more counseling session to schedule, one more committee meeting to mediate, one more hospital visit to make, and one more disagreement in the church to work out.  And their problems grow in proportion to the size of their church although they may be more glaring in a small church.  If they miss seeing someone in the hospital, they're upset with themselves.  They're afraid that sick person will feel unimportant or overlooked.  And that's the last thing they want.  Pastors give and give and give...and many times never get filled back up.

There's also a growing dilemma.  Many pastors have no one to talk to.  Who ministers to the minister?  Typically, they don't know who to turn to.  They don't know who they can trust.  Many pastors feel like they should "have it all together" and they're going to look like less than a leader if they ask their church for help.  For most, that's not even an option. And honestly, there are churches who perpetuate the notion that pastors should have it all together and never need help.  Or pastors feel like they should just be able to pray and have God "fix" their problem.  They're afraid they'll make God look bad if they go looking for help.  Many pastors feel like they're between a rock and a hard place which can bring about sadness, depression, despondency and even hopelessness when it goes on too long.

As Andy & I reach senior adulthood and the highlight years of our ministry (don't you like my new term?)...we have such a passion for younger men and women in the ministry.  When I read the article tonight about the pastor who took his life, I felt the need to reach out.  First, I wanted pastors and their wives to know there is help.  Andy & I want to help.  There are other older pastors--who've seen and heard it all and won't be stunned by your problems--who want to help.  Andy & I have also become a part of a wonderful ministry which recognizes the needs pastors face.  And they are helping.  If you feel called to help these pastors, I highly recommend supporting this ministry!  It's called Double Honor Ministries and it is a very worthy ministry to support.  Please go to their website and read about what they're doing.  They are having retreats for pastors in a safe environment where they and their wives can safely share their needs with leaders who can help.  It's a "filling-up station."

I want to end with this:  please, PLEASE seek help if you're a pastor who is struggling.  Or if you're a pastor's wife and you're struggling--or recognize your husband isn't himself--contact us.  Andy & I are available to help you.  And if your need is bigger than all of us, we have resources who can help you.  It's not necessary to keep your needs a secret.  Satan would love for you to think you're the only one experiencing this.  God wants to set you free.  If you are a pastor and wife and you are doing well, let me suggest that you continue finding ways to stay "filled up!"  

God bless our pastors and their wives!  Encourage yours today.

A Fifty Year Silence by Miranda Mouillot

It's taken me forever to write a review of this book.  In fact, it took me a long time to read the book!  I wanted to like this book--the synopsis of the book sounded amazing.  I applaud Ms. Mouillot for putting down her family history in book form.  I know it was probably healing for her to do so.

This book is the journey of Ms. Mouillot's grandparents.  They didn't speak to one another for over 50 years.  She spent time with both grandparents and wanted to understand why they separated and didn't speak again.  There just seemed to be no real resolution--which was just the way their relationship was, I understand.  Her grandparents were both Holocaust survivors and her grandfather was a part of the Nuremburg Trials.  It's a story I wanted to embrace...but was left frustrated.

I'd give this book 2 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to Blogging for Books 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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Need Food!

I had a new experience last night...I'm ashamed to say.  You see, I worked for 5 years in the benevolence ministry.  I've seen it all.  And during those 5 years, I struggled with, "What's the truth of helping the poor?"  On the one hand, Jesus told us the poor would always be with us...and on the other hand God said that if you don't work, you don't eat.  During those 5 years, we gave people groceries and clothing once a week.  But because I'd been a volunteer for that ministry before I became the director, I knew that we were still helping the same people we'd been helping for the past 10 years.  I knew something was broken.  So I began trying to help renew their minds by offering programs to help bring them up out of poverty.  During the 5 years I was there, I saw three people transition from poverty to a self-sustaining position.  So I left that ministry more confused than ever.  How do we help the poor? 

And because of what I'd seen while in benevolence ministry, I never helped people on the streets.  I'd heard all the stories...people panhandling and making more money than I ever dreamed of making.  People using money to buy drugs, etc., etc.  And in other countries, we were told not to help the beggars because they'd never leave us alone--or the missionaries with us later. I mean...I'd seen the abuses up-close and personal.  But I began asking God what His heart was in the matter.  And then I watched my own kids and grandkids give, help, love...and challenge the rest of us to do the same.  God is so faithful.  About 2 months ago, I read this in Luke 6, "If someone begs from you, give to him."  Period.  There are no qualifications in that passage.  If someone begs, give.  Something shifted in me when I read that.  I purposed in my heart to be that kind of giver.  And I promised God that if I saw someone begging and had something to give, I would.

Last night, Andy & I had gone on a date and had eaten at Hoffbrau.  Andy began feeling sick and we left with 2 boxes of Brau chips, steak, hamburger, rolls--two meals hardly touched.  And then we had to run by Wal-Mart to get medicine.  As we were leaving, a family with two children was standing there with a sign which read, "Need Food & $ for a Motel Room."   I stopped in my tracks.  My mind raced with what I had to give.  I got in the pickup and picked up those two boxes of food and the cash I had in my purse (which is quite unusual!) and took it to the mom.  She began crying and looked me in the eyes and said, "I promise to pray for you!"  Someone else was walking up to help at that moment so all I said was, "You're welcome.  God bless you!"  As Andy & I drove away, I saw them digging into the boxes and the kids were already eating.

You might think I'm telling you this to pat myself on the back.  But I'm telling you this because my heart was broken---and I was ashamed.  Ashamed that it's taken me this long to help people who beg.  As we drove out of town, I saw a motel sign which said, "Rooms $35."  And I cried.  Why didn't I think of taking them to a motel?  I had enough money to do that--and it was getting cold outside.  Before I went to sleep, I saw their faces again and prayed for them.  This morning, I woke up thinking about this family--and praying they got a room.  And I cried that my heart had been so bound up in judgment that this is honestly the first time I can remember helping someone who begged.  I cried that I didn't say more, pray for them, take them to a ministry in town who would help them.

But it won't be the last time I help.  I know the heart of God now.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Church Where I "Grew Up"

First Baptist Church of Borger, TX.  Andy & I went to this church in 1987 when he was 36 and I was 31--the ages some of our kids are now.  Andy became the youth minister under Pastor Gary Miller.  We'd come "back home" from Broken Arrow, OK where we'd been under Pastor Paul Burleson for 3 years...and where Gary had been a former youth pastor, ironically.  We had no idea when we went to Borger (which was Andy's home town and where he'd gotten to know Paul Burleson) that we'd be there for 26 years and be a part of the ministry of 4 different pastors or that Andy would hold several different positions in this church.

What a great place to "grow up!"  I actually grew up in Pampa, TX--a mere 30 miles from Borger.  But FBC Borger is where the people graced me to be myself, allowed me to practice the spiritual truths I was learning, and loved on me.  The pastors we were under invited some of the most incredible men and women of God to come and teach us.  People like Major Ian Thomas, Bill & Anabel Gillham, Peter Lord...there were so many and they all left a lasting impression on my heart.  I learned things from them which I still teach today.

There were people in this church who took me on my first overseas mission trip and really planted a desire in me to reach other countries for Christ.  There were people who taught us how to teach English as a second language--which God used to open doors in many countries.  There were people who came alongside us to do youth ministry and became our right hands.  There were older women who taught me and encouraged me.  There were people who challenged us and caused us to have a broader focus.  It was here that I learned how to pray--and I prayed with some amazing saints.  I'll never forget a 90-year-old man who had such a passion for our youth and prayed for them consistently.  It was while I was in this church that I learned the blessing of giving.  There were people who were passionate, bold, and outrageous about God who breathed life into us.  There were people who held us accountable.  There were those who encouraged us.  There were older people who were great examples for us.  People in this church knew how to roll up their sleeves and get things done.  There were women who were organized and brought those skills into our ministry.   These people walked arm-in-arm with me through some of the hardest things I've ever faced--like Andy's kidnapping. There were people who helped us raise our kids and loved them unconditionally.  It was here that we developed deep friendships--the kind that last for a lifetime.

I will forever be grateful for the investment this church made in my life.  It was a deep, deep investment.  It was a church who helped me and watched me "grow up."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What story will you tell them?

Have you ever said to someone, or thought to yourself, "I can't wait to get to heaven and ask Moses about crossing the Red Sea...or Joshua about the battle of Jericho...or Deborah about leading an army of men."?  There are so many heroes in the Old Testament--men and women who obeyed God and did some amazing things.  And I certainly want to hear their stories in person when I get to heaven!

But did you realize they can't wait to talk to you and hear your stories?  They're going to want to know what it was like to live with the Holy Spirit residing inside of you.  There were a few of them who had the Holy Spirit come upon them during their lifetimes...but none of them had Him living inside of them constantly.  Which is why David asked God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him.  He didn't want his sin to cause the Holy Spirit to leave.  The Holy Spirit doesn't leave us after we're saved.  He's right there all the time--living inside of us. It's part of the change called grace.  When Jesus died, rose again, and left the earth--He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us. And all He is and has is available to us all the time.

I was stunned one day when I began thinking about it and this thought occurred to me:  People who lived thousands of years ago are waiting to ask ME what it was like living with the Holy Spirit available to me every day.  What would I tell them?  How have I allowed the Holy Spirit to teach me, guide me, help me?  What kind of power has He been able to display through me?  Has my life been different than those who lived without Him--those who are already in heaven?  Wow.  It's changing how I live--because I want a story to tell those saints of old.  I want to be able to tell them what it was like allowing the Holy Spirit to change me and display His fruit in my life.  I want to tell them what it was like to hear Him tell me what the Father was saying.  I want to be able to say I heard Him and corrected my course.  I want to share with them how He arranged divine appointments for me as I followed Him.  I want to be able to tell them I did miracles or shared prophecies because He told me what to do.  I want them to know what it was like having Him so available to me.

I want a story to tell.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is one of my favorite authors.  And she didn't disappoint with this new book, On This Foundation.  The story is the biblical account of Nehemiah as told through the 3-D imagination of Ms. Austin.

I loved every character in this book.  They were real, believable and well-developed as the story moved along.  Of course, Nehemiah is the central character of the book and the background Ms. Austin gives him seems as if it must have moved off the pages of the Bible...but it's not all there.  But because our place of pain is most often our place of reign, the background she created for Nehemiah doesn't seem just believable, but probable.

Lynn Austin touches every aspect of the day in Jerusalem--from the impoverished to the rich rulers.  And from the few details in the Bible, she develops emotion, imagination, and a desire to study the true story to see what is fact and what is fiction.  And because you know the story and how it ends, I don't need to retell it here.  But what you'll find in this work of fiction is the human response to a big call from God.  This book isn't just a work of fiction...the Holy Spirit through Lynn Austin touched areas of my life through the truth in this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  I highly recommend it! I didn't want the book to end.
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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Those Profiteering Moneychangers

I was reading the account of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple in John 2 this morning.  The synposis:

  • Moneychangers are in the temple selling sacrifices to the temple--at exorbitant prices--cheating the people.
  • Jesus comes in and begins throwing their tables over and driving them out and driving the animals out with a whip.
  • He tells them, "My house will be called a house of prayer.  Stop making My Father's house a place for your own profit!"
  • The disciples remember the scripture, "Jealous devotion for God's house consumes me."
  • The Jews ask, "Who gives you the right to shut us down.  If it is God, then show us a sign."
  • Jesus says, "If you destroy this temple, I will rebuild it in 3 days.  He was talking about the true temple--his body.
I asked God to teach me what this means for me...today.  And He began reminding me of some things.  I Corinthians tells me that my body is the temple of God.  Whenever I choose to follow Jesus, my life becomes His and my body becomes His temple.  So...it's also possible for "moneychangers" to enter the temple of God (me) and rob me.  The psalmist says he'd rather be a gatekeeper in the house of God than live a wealthy life in the tents of the wicked.  We are that gatekeeper!!  We are to guard what goes into our minds.  II Corinthians 10:5 says to "..take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..."  Whatever we allow into the temple of God (our body and soul--mind, will, emotions) can either bring worship to God or contaminate the temple.  

So...who are the moneychangers?  Satan and his demons.  They are constantly lying to us. When we don't take thoughts captive, we're basically inviting their lies into our minds to set up shop.  And they come in with thievery, distortion, and cheating.  At first, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around this.  But God just told me to examine my life.  It seems I'm constantly discovering lies I've believed which God is helping me remove from my life.  For instance, I've always thought I'm not an emotional person.  But God recently took me back to two different incidences in my life where I was laughed at because of my emotions at a young age--and I learned to put a lid on it.  When I began to believe that lie, what was stolen from my life?  Emotions--to worship God.  I've bottled up emotions out of fear of being ridiculed.  And the only ones ridiculing me were the enemy.  And there were bigger lies that I allowed to set up shop.  I believed that I was bossy (and really was!).  But I believed I would never change.  So instead of someone helping me to understand how to turn that into leadership, I just tried to keep from being bossy--all on my own.  I never took that thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  As a result, my potential was stolen.  Who God created me to be was distorted.  I was cheated out of my purpose.  What did the moneychangers profit?  Their side "won" by keeping God's kingdom from reaching full potential and expanding like He wanted.  Their main goal is to keep people from coming to Christ.  But if people do come to Christ, they want to make sure they never fully understand their power and authority in the kingdom of God.

Jealous devotion for God's house consumes Jesus.  He wants complete control.  He wants the moneychangers driven out!  And he again wants the temple cleansed and to become a house of prayer--of worship--which was His very original intent. " It's better to be a gatekeeper in the house of God..." takes on a whole new meaning.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mary and Her Family Rift

Jesus had brothers--James, Joseph, Simon & Judas.  Brothers who didn't believe he was the son of God.  (John 7:5)  Mary knew what it was like to have division in her family. 

First of all, Mary was convinced Jesus was the son of God.  She'd given birth to him in an extraordinary way--and then there was just one confirmation after another!  In fact, God used her to initiate Jesus' public ministry.  Had he done private miracles in their home?  We don't know.  Maybe the Spirit of God just revealed to her it was time for Jesus to start his ministry.  And maybe she'd been in embarrassing situations herself and wanted to prevent that kind of humiliation for her friends.  But when the wedding party was about to run out of wine, she came to Jesus with the problem.  She knew who he was and what he was capable of doing.

Enter Jesus' four brothers.  They were there when the water was turned into wine.  And maybe they'd seen private miracles in their home.  We don't know if Joseph & Mary had revealed to their other children who Jesus really was and explained his holy birth.  I just wonder about their home life.  Jesus was perfect.  None of them were.  Did it seem Jesus was never disciplined?  That things were unfair?  That Jesus was favored or more loved?  Did they grow up resenting their perfect brother?  Yes, those brothers were with him in the beginning of his ministry but either there was already growing animosity...or something shifted.  Was it when they heard about Jesus wrecking the temple and driving out the money changers?  Was it because none of them were chosen as a disciple?  Was Mary's heart hurt a little over that issue? Was it when they saw the Pharisees--respected religious men of their day--come against Jesus?  Was it because everything was just so public?  Maybe the brothers were being ridiculed because of Jesus.  Or maybe things just weren't happening as they'd expected.  

Mary was human--she was just chosen by God for a big job.  And she was a mother.  I believe she loved her children equally--each for who they were.  But she was also a mother who just wanted all of her kids to get along.  Did she lose her way in trying to be a peacemaker?  The reason I ask is because of the account of Mary and Jesus' brothers coming to him as he was teaching a large crowd.  They couldn't reach him because of the crowd.  The people closest to him told him his mother and brothers were outside.  And Jesus' response was, "Do you want to know who my mother and brothers are?  My mother and brothers are these who listen to the word of God and do it!"  I believe it was a stern rebuke.  In my heart, I believe Mary knew a division was growing between her sons and wanted to help them work it out.  Maybe she was even going to suggest that Jesus back off a little from such a public ministry and quit antagonizing the Pharisees.  But Jesus drew the line:  To follow me, you must listen to the word of God and obey.  Were they offended?  I can almost guarantee the brothers were.  Their anger grows.  But I believe this was like cold water in Mary's face to wake her up to the truth that these were the two most important questions everyone had to answer for themselves.  Will you hear the truth of God's word?  And will you obey?  And even though she'd had a miraculous conception and had given birth to the son of God, she had to answer those questions for herself.

Later, in John 7, we're told Jesus' brothers had become quite contemptuous towards him.  The dividing line had become a great gulf!  They sarcastically suggested he go up to Judea and do things even more publicly--"Get famous, Jesus!"--go show off.  I love how Jesus responded, "My time has not yet arrived; but for you, My brothers, by all means, it is always the right time.  You have nothing to worry about because the world doesn't hate you, but it despises Me because I am always exposing the dark evil in its works.  Go on to the feast without Me; I am not going right now because My time is not yet at hand."  He couldn't be goaded into doing anything apart from his Father's will.

There was a huge division in Mary's family.  And she couldn't fix it.  In fact, it grew and grew.  But that's not the end of the story.  We find Mary at the cross.  She chose to hear the word of God and obey.  And the brothers?  Well...some of them gathered with the disciples in the upper room to pray after Jesus' ascension into heaven.  Not all of them.  But those who did had one mind and purpose with everyone else there.  (Acts 1:13-14)

No, Mary couldn't fix the rift in her family.  But when she was at the cross, Jesus, in his dying breath, made provision not just for his mother, but for his brothers, as well.  He assigned his best friend, John, the task of caring for Mary the rest of her life.  He opened a way for the possibility of healing to move in.  He was offering his mother "family" because she'd chosen to follow him.  And with that very same act, Jesus graciously released his brothers so they could make the choice to follow him...or not.  And some did.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What I LOVE about being a pastor's wife

I've spent time talking about the perils of ministry and have read lots of blogs on the same topic.  But today, I want to talk about the JOYS of ministry.  There are so many!!  Andy & I have been in ministry for 40 years and on staff of a church for 35 of those years.  We've learned a lot on that journey.  And boy!  Do I wish I could go back and teach the things I've learned to a younger Becky.  But that younger Becky had to learn a lot of things the hard way.  And the most important thing I've learned is that God is most interested in our journey.  Are we teachable?  Will we obey?  Will we apply truth and grace to our life?  Will we love?  Will we change?  As I reflect on the past 35 years, here are a few things I'm most grateful for...

No matter the size of your church, instant friends are available to you.  Of course, these relationships have to be developed, but even on the first day of being at a new church, the promise of friends is there.  Will everyone be an intimate friend?  No.  But everyone can be a friend at some level.  We pastor's wives are just like anyone else.  Our personalities are going to "connect" with certain people more than others.  And there are just some people more willing or more available to make deeper connections.  Some of my friends have been staff wives but most have been lay people in the church.  I think it's so important to go to a new church with the attitude that I am going to LOVE the people!  It's a choice.  And a good choice.  My life is so much richer because of the people I've met in the four churches we've been a part of.  I can't imagine missing out on any of them!

Man!  Have I done a lot of growing in the past 40 years.  There's no more beautiful place to grow, develop, and change than within the body of Christ.  God has promised "iron sharpening iron" between family members.  I think the difficult things stick out in our minds just because of how hard they were.  And I did grow from them.  But as I meditate on my growth, I think God grew me most in the sweet places.  Andy & I were a part of a prayer group we called P&P (Praise & Prayer) for several years.  We learned so much about God, how He speaks, how He works, how He delights to hear us and answer us, and how He still does miracles!  Our faith grew so much during that time.  I also grew from praying with a group of women.  We were crazy enough and needy enough to see God do some awesome things--like save marriages, deliver from drug addiction, and return prodigals home.  It was through relationships within the body of Christ that I began to see who I was in Christ.

I've been able to be myself in the churches we've been a part of.  No one taught me how to be a pastor's wife.  And because Andy started out in youth ministry in a church we'd already been members of for 5 years, no one had any expectations of me.  We were already a part of that church and they knew me well--and I was actively involved.  And because of that experience,  I assumed I could just be myself...and I did.  Honestly, I think that's key.  If we don't put on airs or fear expectations and just present ourselves as "this is who I am," things go so much more smoothly.  And I think being willing to do the dirty work (being a servant) helps.  We develop relationships when we roll up our sleeves and clean a playground together or wash dishes with others.  They begin to see and know we're just like them.

I've never been affirmed more than through the body of Christ!!  I am so serious about this one.  First...you need to know my love language is gifts.  And our churches have lavished gifts on us: clothing, refrigerator, patio furniture, cars (yes, plural), repairing cars, a trip to Israel, a house remodeled and filled with new furniture when we returned from a mission trip to China, food, gift certificates, money for three of our children's weddings, and so much more.  Just yesterday, our church honored us for Pastor Appreciation Day.  Their words were so kind, the love was evident...and yes, there were gifts.  Over and over we have been affirmed.  But as much as gifts say "love" to me, the power of someone's words washing over me is even more amazing.  Recently, I went to a sweet man in our church and told him that his confidence in me meant more than he could possibly know.  He was a true encourager in my life.   Actually, God has used the affirmation through the years to change me.  I had a "poverty mindset" years ago, but because of the gracious giving of others towards us (which was so humbling), I began to see the true character of God--and His opinion of me.  Close friends and their generosity--and not just towards me--changed me.  Because of their example of generosity in my life, I became a giver...a giver of affirmation and gifts.

I've loved helping my husband's ministry.  We've been partners since the beginning.  I opened our home (no matter the size) for every kind of youth activity, dinner parties, game nights, open houses, small groups, and prayer meetings.  I've taught youth Sunday school, mentored girls, etc.  But it was a give-and-take.  Andy encouraged me to spend time with friends.  He would watch the kids at night so I could go get a Coke and spend time girl-talking.  He encouraged me to go on women's retreats and eventually lead them.  He encouraged me to use my gifts and express myself--and not just in his ministry.  In fact, he was my best cheerleader when I became the director of a benevolence ministry.  I've helped him.  He's helped me.  We've had a great partnership through the years.  But we've also partnered with those in our churches doing ministry, going on mission trips, youth camps, etc.  When you partner with others, a strong link is formed.

I started to put laughter as the title for this section, but realized it was much deeper than that.  I have loved laughing with the body of Christ.  There's nothing I enjoy more.  But I've also cried and even wailed with the body of Christ.  And there's nothing that builds a better bond than crying with a brother or sister over needs together.  I've been angry with some of my brothers and sisters (as they have with me!), but I have always tried to work it out.  I can't stand rifts.  But I have loved deeply.  I have deep relationships from every church we've been a part of.  There are people I could call at 2:00 in the morning who would be by my side as quickly as  they could get there--and I'd do the same for them.  Andy & I have been with people in some of their most painful crises (and they with us), which has built a forever-bond.

I think I could go on and on.  What a privilege God has given me to be a pastor's wife!  God told me when I was 12-years-old that I would be a pastor's wife.  And He's spent 40 years training me and working stuff out of me.  But most of all...HE'S BLESSED MY SOCKS OFF!!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Evolution of Facebook

I joined Facebook in January of 2008.  It seemed to be a more adult version of Myspace--even though I loved getting to decorate my own Myspace page.  ;)  When I joined Facebook, we wrote on each other's walls and our own wall about what was going on in our lives.  We checked in on one another...we connected with people we didn't get to see very often.

I remember when Pinterest came into existence and everyone began putting their pins on Facebook.  I was so frustrated.  Why couldn't we keep them separate? (High D on DISC...)   And then began the advent of videos, memes, political ads, sports ads, business ads, etc.

So this morning, I did an unofficial survey.  I just went through the first 100 posts on my Facebook.  And I divided them into broad categories.  And here's what I came up with:

1% Group post
1% Photo of other people
3% Memories
4% Sports
4% Food
13% Religious Ads/Stories
15% Political Ads/Stories
15% Videos (Mostly humorous)
15% Personal Messages
17% Business Ads/Promotions of Personal businesses
25% Memes

Facebook has definitely evolved.  I just think it's an easy way to post mindless stuff, to jump on someone else's bandwagon, or post things out of boredom.  I'm not saying reposting is bad.  I've done a lot of it myself.  I know I've read memes which seemed meant just for me at just the right time.  And others can write articles which convey my heart.

But what if we all took responsibility to change the percentages?  I've made up my mind to write more personal messages, post my own photos, make my own funny videos, encourage others myself instead of using a meme.  I want do some REAL connecting instead of mindlessly reposting.  I can see how mindlessly reposting is a lazy way which can turn my mind into mush.  I want to connect with purpose.  I'm choosing to revolve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Remote Connection

Have you ever had someone take over the control of your computer remotely?  My son, David, who lives in Minnesota works in IT and today I texted him because I kept having a malware cleaner pop up wanting to clean my computer.  (He told me, "I wouldn't install malware.  Haha!"  I do know that much, Dave...)  So to fix it, he had me download a program which would allow him to remotely operate my computer.  It looks like this (watch the cursor--my hands weren't touching my laptop--I was filming):

I told David I loved to see him work--it was almost like having him here!  As I watched him clean up my computer, I had the thought that this was a lot like giving God control of my life.  I had to give David permission to work remotely on my laptop.  Just like I have to release control to God.  David took over because he knew things I didn't know.  He could tell at a glance what needed to happen when I didn't.  Just like God.  He knew how to repair the problem and bring order out of chaos.  And after it was all over, my machine was operating properly and at a better speed.  All like God.  It was an interesting analogy to watch take place right in front of me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy National Farmer's Day!

FARMERS.  There's no one like these people.  I have uncles who have farmed, but I was never around them throughout a season.  So I just had no idea....

Farmers have more faith than anyone I know.  Every year they take seed and plant it in soil which they have turned and prepared for those seeds.  They don't know for sure what will happen.  They're trusting that seed to germinate and sprout and grow and bloom into a crop worth harvesting and selling.

But they also know it may be a season of drought where the wind dries up the soil and whips it across the highways--and takes the topsoil and their seed into the next county!  Our farmers have faced many years of drought, fear, and hopelessness.  But they keep on doing the same thing the next year in faith...believing God for better results.

Or they may face a year of torrential rains which washes their seed away or floods their fields which makes planting hard, late, and foreboding.  We've had rains which have turned farmer's fields into playas.  You can't plant in a playa.  Those rain clouds can also bring hail which can completely destroy an entire crop in an instant.

Probably the hardest things farmers face isn't what nature brings, but what man brings.  I don't understand things like market values and commodity markets.  But just in my two years in a farming community, it seems like every time the crops come in, the market plunges.  And the farmers are left having to accept prices calculated by the powers-that-be.  What you may not know, farmers are barely making it.  Many will have a hard time paying back banks.  And you probably know someone who has had to sell their farm.  It's heartbreaking!

But if they can, these farmers keep doing what they've always done.  They're risk-takers!  But more than that, they're men and women of faith.  And they are committed to feeding their fellow countrymen.  They believe in what they're doing!  You won't just see men on those tractors, combines, trucks, and balers.  Their wives pitch in when they have to (some even love it!) and many times you'll see photos of them with their small children "helping drive" or asleep in the cab.  These families are devoted to your family.  They work long, hard hours to provide food for us all.  They miss meals so we won't have to.  They purchase equipment with prices which would boggle your mind.

This is my thank-you to the farmers I know:  Troy, Barry, Clay, Dean, Buck, Wade, Jesse, Richard, Darrell, Andy, Jason, the Brittens, Bells, Childresses, Gaines, Dysons...and some I know I've forgotten.  And to their wives who help--either in the fields, at home, cooking for crews, doing books, or just by not giving in to fear:  Kim, Carole, Nicole, Adrianna, Jill, Skye, Karri, Sue, Kari, & Mina...and some I know I've forgotten.  I love your hearts and how big they are.  I love your work ethic.  I love your concern and love for your fellow man.  I appreciate the L-O-N-G hours you put in.  I see your sacrifice, your hard labor, and the tiredness in your faces at times.  I know what you're doing for the rest of us.  And I love you for it!  I see so many spiritual applications in what you do.  You have the heart of God.  But most importantly, thank you for giving the rest of us a good example of faith.  

I love farmers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

After No...Say Yes!

When I had small children, I had to learn how to say "NO!"  No to being over-involved in activities...especially church activities.  I remember a woman who was older than me told me that it was OK to say "no."  And she went on to say that I didn't even have to give a reason.  No was enough.  And if I couldn't do that, I should at least tell the person asking that I would pray about it.  That would give me time to honestly pray and consider if I had time to give to the project and time to also pass the idea by my husband who knew my limits.

I learned that lesson well.  It became easier and easier to say no to things which either weren't my gifting or that I didn't have time for.  What's become harder is opening myself up to saying "YES!" again.  I wish I could remember which book I read, video I watched, or exactly where I heard it recently (to give credit where credit is due)....to  SAY YES!  Quit saying no to things out of fear.  Or because it's out of your comfort zone.  Or because you're too old.  Or because you've never done it before. Or because you may not like it.  Or because you'd rather be in your easy chair.

Start saying yes.  Say yes to that hike.  Say yes to babysitting your grandchildren.  Say yes to bungee-jumping.  Say yes to keeping the church nursery.  Say yes to new and exotic foods.  Say yes to joining a different culture for an event.  Say yes to a walk along the river holding hands.  Say yes to a dessert.

I think we get so used to saying no that we become closed off to life.  And I think the older we get, the easier it is to say no--which changes our attitude...for the worse.

We recently went to Minnesota to visit our kids and I purposed in my heart to say "yes" before we left.  And what I discovered is that when I decided to say yes, my attitude was completely different.  I'd already made up my mind to enjoy life, to explore, to experience new things.  And I had a blast!

I encourage you to examine whether you're saying "no" way too often.  Don't become stale, old, and unchangeable.  Start saying yes and you will experience life with new eyes and a fresh attitude.  I think it will keep you much younger for much longer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty by Angela Hunt

I received this book to review and interestingly, I'd just finished a book about Bathsheba by another author.  In fact, the other author's view was one I'd long-held.  But as I read this book and saw the story in another light and thought about the scripture...I believe this story is probably closer to how it really happened.

In Angela Hunt's fictional assumption of what happened in Bathsheba's life, I was moved by her portrayal of Bathsheba.  She showed her to be a woman of great character who loved her husband, Uriah the Hittite.  In fact, in Angela's story, a prophecy is given over Bathsheba's life that she would be a "Tob" (of great beauty) woman and she questions whether it's a blessing or a curse.  Most translations of the Bible tell the story of David & Bathsheba's sexual encounter in much lighter tones that does Ms. Hunt.  Most translations say, "he lay with her" which almost makes you think it could have been consensual.   Angela paints a picture of rape.  And as I went to Blue Letter Bible to compare David & Bathsheba's story with that of David's children, Amnon and Tamar, (which we know was rape), the very same Hebrew word is used:  shakab.  I believe Ms. Hunt did her homework!

I highly recommend this book.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.
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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A holy marriage

“Be holy, for I am holy.”  I Peter 1:16

Andy and I were married forty years ago this next Sunday.  It was such a special day.  I wouldn’t call it perfect, but it was very special.  My brother, Bob, offered to let us take his new Camaro on our honeymoon to the mountains.   Throughout the reception, I kept trying to tell Andy that Bob had hidden his car because he didn’t want shoe polish on it…so we needed to borrow someone else’s car to meet him on the highway.  Somehow, that was never communicated.  So we left the church and I paused at the top of the church steps to throw my bouquet, but Andy didn’t stop.  He was anxious to leave in that hot Camaro.  And since he had my arm, he actually dragged me down the steps!  I had bloody knees in the photos of us in my dad’s car as we were leaving. (My dad finally tossed us his keys while we were standing there looking pathetic with no car to take.)  We were off to a great start!  But you can’t understand the excitement I felt.  I was Mrs. Andy Dietz—about to embark on the greatest adventure of my life.  I was all his and he was all mine.

That’s holiness—being set apart or consecrated for a particular person or service.  I was picked by Andy…set apart to be his wife for a lifetime.  I vowed I would never give myself to another man as long as we both lived.  I was set apart to be Andy’s wife and he was set apart to be my husband.  I was holy, for he was holy.

We sometimes think of holiness as being “holier than thou.”  That’s nothing close to what this means.  It’s loving God so much that we want to be “all His.”  He’s already promised to be “all ours.”  It’s a forever relationship bound by love.  We’re promising to not have an adulterous relationship with the world—we’re going to be holy or set apart for God alone.  Holiness is a beautifully exclusive relationship.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Scary Story of a Man Possessed

He was a legend.  He lived in a graveyard and everyone knew he lived out there.  It had become a rite of passage for many teen-aged boys in this town to row their boats out to the abandoned graveyard.  They had to step foot on the island where this wild man lived and touch a grave before they could leave.  Other boys would be in their boats watching to see if their comrade chickened out or if the crazy man did something.  He'd been known to charge those who were brave enough to enter his domain--it was as if he could smell their fear!  Grown men had gone to the graveyard together many times and tried to subdue him with chains--they feared for the safety of their families.  But he pulled those chains off as easily as if they'd been made out of wet moss.  And he would become enraged and scream and wildly chase grown men off the island in terror.  People feared him--plain and simple.  Of course, with someone as crazy as the Wild Man, rumors grew.  It was said he'd eat small animals while they were still alive.  No one had seen him do that, but what else did he eat out there on that small island?  And there was that tale that he had children chained up inside a cave-like tomb.  In fact, parents used the Wild Man to threaten their children into submission, "If you don't clean your room, I'm going to take you to live with the Wild Man!"  Lately, it had been reported by the boys being initiated into manhood that the Wild Man no longer had clothes and that he was sleeping among the dead.  Either his clothes had become so old they'd fallen off of him or he'd torn them off in one of his rages.  The island graveyard was no place to be.

But that's exactly where Jesus and his disciples ended up after being out in a boat in that terrible storm--which Jesus had calmed.  When they landed, they were met at the boat by the Wild Man.  Jesus immediately knew what was wrong.  The man was demon possessed.  So Jesus addressed the demons living inside of him.  He asked, "What's your name?" and was told, "Legion, Battalion, Army" because an army of demons was living inside of him.  The demons knew Jesus had authority over them and knew their habitation in Wild Man was over.  They begged him to send them into a herd of pigs instead of sending them to the bottomless pit.  No one wants to go to the bottomless pit.  And that's what Jesus did.  Those demons entered the pigs and sent them over the cliff to their deaths...and at the same moment, Wild Man was set free!  Jesus and his disciples dressed this newly liberated man and began teaching him on the spot.  The owners of the pigs (which Jews weren't allowed to own) went into the village and began telling everyone what had happened.  People came to the island and found Wild Man sitting at the feet of Jesus in his right mind and fully clothed.

Guess what happened next?  The people were fearful!  They were more fearful of Wild Man being in his right mind and completely set free than they were of him when he was crazy.  They begged Jesus to leave.  The Voice version of the Bible says, "The people are scared to death, and they don't want this scary abnormality happening in their territory.  They ask Jesus to leave immediately.  Jesus doesn't argue."  So Jesus leaves.  But before he does, Wild Man asks to go with him.  Jesus replied, "No.  Go home.  Tell your people this amazing story about how much God has done for you."

I read this story this morning and it startled me to realize that the people were more fearful of the miraculous than they were of the demonic.  Isn't that interesting?  I really don't think that has changed.  People gravitate towards the demonic and "play" with it.  But even people in the church veer away from the miraculous and are skeptical, suspicious and scoffing.

But Jesus left that unbelieving, fear-bound town with a witness.  What could they do with a Wild Man who'd become civilized?  How could they dispute his testimony, his restored life, his new reputation?  I think it's amazing that Jesus could only have had a few hours with him...but it was enough.  Enough to set his feet on a new path and to transform him into a new man.  Enough to be a testimony to an unbelieving, fearful community.  Jesus still has a witness, a testimony, to change the hearts of unbelievers...everywhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Plank, anyone?

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice or consider the log that is in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, allow me to take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite (play actor, pretender), first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye."  Luke 6:41-42

How do we see other's faults so clearly...and yet we don't see our own?  I've got the remedy for that!  Actually, God has the remedy but I've learned what it is.  We're told in Proverbs that just like water reflects what it sees, another man's heart reflects our heart.  I believe what that means is that whatever we see in another person's life that irritates us is actually true in our own lives.  Just like the verses in Luke, the speck is made out of the very same material as the log.  They're both wood.  We're looking at the other person's speck and want to point it out to them when the very same thing is true in our own lives...in much bigger proportions.

Let me give you an example.  Andy is a perfectionist about many things.  He likes his clothes hanging a certain way and for things to be neat and tidy.  My closet looks nothing like his and it doesn't bother me for things to be a little disorderly.  So one day, his perfectionism was driving me crazy.  But knowing the speck/log principle, I went to God and said, "OK.  So if it's true that what I'm seeing in Andy is also true in my own life, You're going to have to show me.  Because I am NOT a perfectionist!"  Let me tell you...God is fast.  Within 10 seconds, He told me, "Becky, you're a spiritual perfectionist."  Wow.  I let that sink in for a few minutes and was devastated when I understood what that really meant.  A spiritual perfectionist is nothing more than a Pharisee.  Someone who desires spiritual order so much in their life, that they even create rules to live by.  Rules that  God doesn't even demand.  And it's hard to be a good Pharisee without imposing those rules on others.  This was not what I signed up for!  I humbled myself and asked God to remove the plank from my eye.  Andy's speck didn't look so big or offensive after all.

I've become a student of this.  I've observed people who complain about issues in other people's lives.  And you know what?  It's true.  They don't even know that the very thing they're complaining about is also true in their own lives.  In fact, it's been my observation that most of the time, it's eerily close...sometimes down to the very last detail.

So before you complain about the speck in someone else's eye, you might want to ask God for a mirror....a very BIG mirror!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Abundant LIFE!

When I was about 34-years-old, I went to God and said, "If this is all there is to the Christian life, I'm kind of disappointed."  I was going to church (my husband was on staff for goodness' sake) and I felt like I was doing all the "right" things.  But I couldn't seem to get my hands on that illusive abundant life.  I think God delights when we come to Him with statements or questions like that--He wants to deliver!!

I committed to pouring myself into the Word of God.  Honestly, that's all I knew to do.  I was desperate.  And I was meeting with a group of women and praying.  About this time, we had also formed something which fondly became known as P&P to us--Praise & Prayer--with a group of friends who were as desperate to find that abundant life as we were.  I would systematically read my Bible during those days and ask God to speak to me.  I would be surrounded by commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Hebrew & Greek lexicons, etc. I was no scholar, but I was sure desperate.  I remember reading John 14:6 and the Holy Spirit instructed me to read it again.  I did.  And when I did, I just remember Him whispering, "It's progressive, Becky."  I looked again...and again.  And then I got it!!  I had to come to Jesus as the Way.  He's the only way to God--and it's a narrow way.  And to get to abundant life, I had to go through truth!

I have consistently pursued Truth since then.  I'm constantly asking God the truth about a situation, a person, a direction...everything.  Jesus is truth.  And as I pursue truth, I'm pursuing Him.  And the more truth He reveals, the fuller my life gets.  In fact, there are moments when I become giddy about my life!  Pursuing truth is like a treasure hunt--one discovery leads to another.  And with each discovery comes more revelation of who God is and who He created me to be.  I can still go through hard things and can get overwhelmed, but abundant life isn't dependent on my circumstances. God has revealed truth in the midst of some very hard circumstances in my life and it's like an amazing awakening takes place.  My eyes are opened to things I've never seen before and an explosion of the joy of the Lord rushes in and changes my perspective!

If I could hand every believer one single thing, it would be this...pursue truth.  Because when you do, you are certain to arrive at ABUNDANT LIFE!!  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

One Step at a Time...

It's so easy to get overwhelmed with all that is going on in the world and feeling responsible to solve all of the world's issues.  It's enough to quit Facebook.  

Jesus told us in John 16 that he was leaving, hard things were coming, but He was sending the Holy Spirit to us.  The Holy Spirit would guide us, teach us, counsel us, comfort us, and be our advocate.  To me, the most powerful verse in that whole chapter is verse 13.  

It says, "But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]." 

The most important thing we can do right now is listen.  We need to be hearing what the Spirit of God is saying to each of us individually.  And then we need to obey.  If we're listening to everything the world is telling us, we'll become so overwhelmed that we may freeze and do absolutely nothing.  But if each of us is listening and obeying, it will all get done.

There are so many voices out there trying to get us to do this or that or to become involved in their ministries or to feel the way they do about their projects.  And it may be really great stuff!  But it won't be the BEST for us if the Holy Spirit hasn't led us there.  We need to be still, hear God's voice, and obey...one step at a time.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Don't you just love it when God pursues you with a message and just seems to add to it layer by layer?  That's what He's been doing with me lately.  He's been pursuing me with the message of "my story."  I even made it the theme of our VBS this summer:  "Invite God into Your Story!"

And I've been doing just that...inviting God into my story.  And more than that, asking for my story to be a part of His story.

You know, we always think about getting to heaven and getting to ask the saints of old to elaborate on their stories--or to thank them for inspiring us.  But do you realize they can't wait to ask us about our stories?  They are going to want to know what it was like to live with the Holy Spirit residing in us.  They're going to want to know about walking around every single day with that kind of power.  That thought alone has given me pause.  What am I going to tell them?  What did I experience that they didn't get to experience?  How powerful did I allow the Spirit of God to be in me and through me?

I picked this book up yesterday at Mardel and read it in a single evening.

The subtitle caught my attention for good reason and I couldn't wait to see what he said.  Joel says he was a nerd as a teenager.  But his dad would tell amazing stories of his childhood or teenage years.  And Joel realized he had no stories to tell.  So his philosophy became "DO IT FOR THE STORY!"  He was tired of living a careful, wallflower existence and saying "no" to adventure.  So he began to say "yes" to life and adventure just so he'd have a story to tell.  His book is full of God-adventures in the Antarctic, South Africa, Haiti and more.

If you want a story, you have to take advantage of what is in front of you.  Say yes.  It may mean overcoming some fears.  It may mean you'll do things you never thought you could do.  It may mean practicing something until you do it with excellence.  But most importantly, it's saying "YES" to God!  It's inviting Him into your story, asking for divine connections, and stepping out in faith.  It's awakening to the things around you and the adventures and fun God wants to share with you.  It's saying "YES!" to the Spirit of God and agreeing to go, do, and say whatever He wants.  It's listening intently and obeying.  It's a faith adventure!  And in the process, you're going to discover the very purpose for which God created you.

I'm all in!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What to do when you're surrounded by sadness...

I've been surrounded by sadness lately--there has been an accumulation of losses this past year.  And it's so easy to get consumed by the sadness and just give yourself to it.  Sometimes I don't even realize I'm grieving until tears are just leaking out of my eyes and I don't even know why.  (A good sign that I'm not very in tune with my emotions.)  Or it can play out by just feeling exhausted all the time.  This time, it's like I can't even focus.  I'm trying to plan an event and I can't even remember the times or what I need to do next.  And when I get alone, tears leak out again.  Have you ever been there?  I know some people who struggle with even deeper depression or sadness.  For them, it's a constant battle...I can't even imagine how that feels.

What do you do when you're in that hard place?  Praise.  That's not something we normally think of doing when we're sad, depressed, or grieving.  God knew we'd be in those low places, so He gave us the antidote...

"Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of the lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name."  (Hebrews 13:5)

It won't be easy.  It's turning your mind from fixating on all your problems or losses to looking to God Almighty.  That's why it's called a sacrifice.  It's laying your "flesh" on the altar before God as a willing sacrifice.  It's opening your mouth wide as a grateful offering.  It's lifting your voice with words of praise and thanksgiving--all to glorify God.

Things may not change immediately.  But keep doing it--offer that sacrifice of praise.  It will bring a depth to your relationship with God you may have never experienced.  It's easy to praise God in the good times.  It becomes a sacrifice in the hard times.  But it's the axis which can change everything.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tell Your Story

Col. Curtis H. Downs III

We should all tell our stories.  We may think no one wants to hear them or that they're insignificant.  But we all have a story to tell--and one which will encourage or teach someone else.

I had the privilege of interviewing all four of my grandparents and writing down some of their stories.  I only wish I'd gotten away from the questions I'd pre-written and dug a little deeper or asked for more details.  But that one experience taught me how to ask questions to discover the stories of others.

One of the biggest regrets of my life will be that I didn't get to record and write Curtis Downs' story.  One night, through some probing, he began telling some war stories of his time in Vietnam.  Curtis was a Colonel in the Army and was a helicopter pilot.

He was a true humanitarian, patriot, soldier, hero, and friend.  I was fascinated with his stories.  They were stuff movies are made of!  The first time I heard some of them, I told him, "Curtis, you need to write a book!"  And he said he'd heard that more than once.  Occasionally, I would reiterate my sentiments.  And then one day, I offered to interview him and write his story.  He promised to think about it.  I guess the more he thought about it, the more he talked about it at home with his wife, Dondra.  And she makes things happen!  She ordered a dictophone so he could begin recording his thoughts.  And the next time he saw me, he told me he thought he was going to let me write his story.  And then he said, "Some of it won't be very pretty."  I told him I was up for the challenge.  And then...Curtis went to be with the Lord this week.  I'm so sad we didn't get his story recorded from his own words.

YOUR story is important!  Begin telling your children and grandchildren your story.  Write it down--even if you don't think it's significant or special.  Write it down--even if you think you don't write well.  Write it down--even if you made big mistakes.  Write it down--even if it's not near completion.  We have a legacy for those coming behind us and they need to know how we've lived.  They need to hear how God saved us and helped us. 

God wrote His story for us to learn from.  We should write ours for the same reason.