Saturday, December 19, 2009

"I Can Love You Better"

Today was Scott Kaehr’s funeral. I can’t remember the last time I was so moved. I couldn’t stop crying after I saw his widow, Karen, because she and the entire room was heavy with sadness. Kent said, however, that Scott didn’t want people crying for him, but for the ones who don’t know Christ.

Scott was passionate about Christ! How wonderful it is that he is with Him NOW! It stirred my own desire for Jesus so much (which is just what I needed right now). In clips from his last sermon, Scott shared how he felt God saying that He loved him. Kent asked us if we had heard God say that to us. In my heart, I was thinking “not lately.” Emotionally, I have been very numb (to say the least). I won’t go into a bunch of details at the moment, but I’ll just say that grace like rain washed over me and I am doing much better. I don’t want to love or be loved by anything or anyone more than Jesus. I could feel Him say, “I can love you better.” It keeps echoing in my mind. He’s the ultimate love, and no one can out-love Him. He always has (and always will) love me most and love me better than anyone. He belongs to me, and I belong to Him. It’s Christmastime, and we celebrate the fact that He came to us, and for us, and He invites us to come to HIM.

Scott always made a point of telling us how prideful and arrogant he could be and how he wrestled with it. He always said we needed to humble ourselves and surrender. All of that, and more, resonated so much stronger with me today. I can’t even begin to describe all I thought and felt during the beautiful service today (which Scott requested that it be not about him, but about Christ). There was an altar call at the end, and so many people went up (praise God!). I prayed and thanked God where I stood, with Casey by my side. I also pondered what he might have been thinking, and about the day where he might be one to go forward when he’s old enough to understand. I know, and Scott knew, that nothing is more important than Jesus.

I was concerned about the state of my heart lately, and how I would even prepare to enjoy and celebrate Christmas. Now, everything has been made right again. I don’t have the words to explain or express it all. All I know is that I am grateful for Christ and grateful for the impact He made on Scott because it has impacted us all. I venture to say I am jealous of the fact that he gets to be in heaven with Jesus right now. How glorious that must be! I want that too! I can hardly wait! Until then, I will remain faithful; trusting and clinging to Christ until my day comes.

Whether you knew Scott or not, please watch his last sermon. Ironically, he was showing people his casket and talking about the reality of death and the choice we all have to make. Please, please, watch these videos (there‘s three of them because Facebook only lets you upload so many minutes of footage at a time - you do NOT have to have a Facebook account in order to see it). I promise you will be glad you did!! Grace and peace to you, and God bless you all!! (Keep praying for Scott’s family - especially his wife, Karen, and that she will be empowered and strengthened by Christ and have all she needs to endure).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simple Blessings

A few days ago, I got something in the mail. It was from my dear friend, Holly. Imagine my delight and surprise as I opened the gold envelope and found two little packages of limited edition coconut M&M’s and a note which read: “Simply because I think you ROCK! : ) Enjoy… Holly”

I was profoundly touched! You should have seen me! I was giggly and squealing with girly excitement. I had my hand to my heart and was like, “Awww!! She loves me!” On her blog, she had talked about those limited edition M&M’s and ever since then, I had been looking for them (but hadn’t found any). How thoughtful of her to send them to me (and to attach such a sweet note to them - and on HELLO KITTY PAPER, NO LESS!).

Words can’t describe what that meant to me! It was such a sweet, simple, kind, and thoughtful gesture. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal to just anyone, but it encouraged me GREATLY and spoke love to my heart! It was exactly what I needed! It meant all the more to me because it was sort of “random.” It’s not my birthday, and it’s not quite Christmas. Yet, she took the time to listen to a little “nudge” to do something nice for a friend. Add to that the fact that she actually had to take the extra time to go to the post office, and probably wait in line in order to get that mailed, and I appreciate it even more (because I’m the type that tries to avoid the hassle of the post office). Those of you who are Moms totally understand why that is AWESOME!! So yeah, this little gift is a HUGE deal for me! My dear friend, who is a busy wife and Mom, sacrificed some valuable TIME! She thought of me, and went beyond just a “good intention” or a nice idea.

Simple things really do mean the most. Yet, we underestimate just how much our simple gestures and random acts of kindness mean to others. We even push it aside because we are just too darn busy! We don’t want to lift a finger unless we have to because it’s just not “convenient” for us to spare five minutes or more. So, we brush it off as “no big deal” and that it probably wouldn’t matter anyways - all because we don’t want to put forth some minimal effort. Thank the Lord for people like Holly; who genuinely cares more for others than herself! Though, what she did is easy enough for anyone to do, but as I mentioned, Moms like us are busy. We’re taking care of our families and barely take care of ourselves. So, to go out of our way (and maybe make a special trip to the post office) can be a bit of a chore; and who needs another “chore” on their endless to do list? Yet, she said “yes”….to me (and to God)! It was as if she said: “I thought of you and you are definitely worth my time. Here’s a little something that I know you’ll enjoy! I don‘t want you to miss out on some limited edition cand
y, in case you can‘t find it yourself. You deserve it! And, as an added bonus, I’ll even write my note on Hello Kitty paper just because I know you love it (and because I love YOU!).”

This is but one of the many “simple” blessings that I have experienced lately. One of the other
ones was when Casey brought me something he made at school. He sweetly said, “Merry Christmas, Mom!” and gave me a picture with those words on it. He had also drawn a Christmas tree, presents, and two stick figures (representing he and I) on it. I smiled and lavished my praise and thank-yous on him as he sheepishly grinned from ear to ear. He also saw to it to bring me two more pictures just like it lol. The best part is, I think he does it more for me than for the sake of praise and approval. He really does love to make me smile (though, I’m practically going to cry right now lol). I am so incredibly blessed!!

So, to my dear Holly, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!! Thank you for hearing me bang on my silver bowl (if you all don’t know what I’m talking about, please read my recent post: “Bowls of Steel”….and Mike Huckabee‘s book “A Simple Christmas“).

Grace and peace to all of you!! Here’s to hoping and praying that more people will be like Holly and hear the sounds of silver bowls (yeah, “Silver Bells” are overrated! LOL). Remember, you never know just how special your words and actions are to someone! Never underestimate just how much you can significantly impact another; and that often times, those simple things you think are “no big deal” are the BIGGEST deal of all!! God bless you all!! Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God on the Greenway: The Last Run


It’s December. The days are shorter and it’s getting colder. Some people actually bundle up and run outside in this weather. Me? Not likely! Even though I REALLY miss running on the Greenway, I think I will just stick to doing Turbo Jam at home until Spring comes.

The last time I ran on the Greenway was late October. I remember how nice the weather was and thinking that it would probably be my last run. So, I just tried to enjoy it and take it all in. The Fall scenery was colorful and beautiful and I was listening to worship music on my iPod. I also reflected on the many things that God has taught me during my runs this year (and the blessed fact that I had even begun running!). It certainly had been an amazing and unexpected journey!

I’ve enjoyed blogging about the many things that have touched my heart as I’ve run on the Greenway. I’ve shared most of them, but there were also many time where I just let myself “be”. Often times, I get so excited about sharing things that I don’t enjoy the moment enough to learn it first myself. I remember when God impressed that concept upon me in 2008. It happened as I was searching for the meaning/lesson in a driving adventure in which I got messed up in my directions. I knew God was trying to teach me something, but I was so caught up in it that I couldn’t learn at all! That’s when this profound statement came to mind: “You’re too busy looking for a lesson to learn one.” I’ve never forgotten that!! Therefore, I have been learning to take the pressure off myself when it comes to blogging. As much as I like to learn and share, I don’t want to miss being fully present in the moment by wondering too much about what I should learn and how I will blog/share it later. I’ve been able to enjoy my runs with God (and life in general) a lot more that way! ;) I still need work, though!

I’m finding that things flow a lot easier when I start to relax and just “be”. If God wants to show me something, He will. If not, I don’t have to worry about learning something if all He wants me to do is just enjoy His creation and His presence. Sometimes, that’s all that is necessary. Maybe even the biggest lesson is that there is no lesson. Kind of like the days in which I would run from my house to the Greenway instead of driving there. I usually took the same route and on my way there, there’s a building that I run past. I don’t know if it’s vacant or what, but the front door has a window in it and right there at that window is a life-size cardboard cutout of John Wayne. I remember being startled the first time or two I passed it! I thought it was an actual person and it took me off-guard! However, I got used to it quickly and jokingly started giving a wave or a head nod to it as I smiled and ran past. I also started thinking of ways how I might incorporate Mr. Wayne into a Greenway blog. However, it never happened. The only thing that ever came to my mind about “Cardboard Wayne” is that he just is what he is. In fact, he sort of became my little reminder about the “no lesson” concept. Running by him reminded me to just be present and enjoy fun and unexpected things like him without having to make relevant sense out of it.

My last run was a “Cardboard Wayne” kind of run. I didn’t think about learning or blogging; I just decided to run and enjoy!! It was a good and peaceful run. I was able to run the full four miles which ended up being 60 minutes and over 800 calories burned. I was pretty happy about that!!

The one thing that I thought would be the icing on the cake was if I could come back and take some pictures! I had always intended to take some of the Greenway, but never remembered to bring my camera with me. Since I happened to finally think of it (and had a little bit of time left before my small group) I decided to go home and get my camera and come back. The colors of autumn had been very generous to the Greenway; I knew I just had to take some photos!

Mitch and the kids came back with me to the Greenway. I had Mitch drop me off at one end and meet me at the other (that way, I would only have to
walk two miles instead of four round-trip). Normally, I wouldn’t have minded doing four, but I didn’t have much tim
e and I had already run four for the first time in a while (and my hips were already feelin
g it). It took me 75 minutes to walk those two miles and take all the shots that I wanted. And, at the end of the Greenway, there is a bench where I often sit to rest, reflect, pray, and praise God after my run. I used my tri-pod to take a picture of myself on that bench (and in the positi
on I am usually in). I hope you enjoy the photos!! (Just click here).

Grace and peace to all of you!! I pray that the things I have learned have also helped someone else in their faith journey! We’re all in this together!! God bless you all!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Newness Under the Son

When you have the "be still and know that He is God" moments, you realize that nothing else compares to the awesome wonder you have for who He is, all He does, and how He loves. When you soak up the grace that He pours out, the sorrows melt away and He fills you; really fills you. Nothing and no one else can do that; or even remotely come close.

If only the reality of those moments of clarity would embed themselves so incredibly deep that you never forget it for a second; never to be deceived by a deception of Satan who tries to steal your joy. However, in this world, it’s all too easy to forget. It’s all too easy to wander away from the presence of God and forget everything that is important. Life gets “complicated” because we don’t remember to keep it “simple”. We become like Solomon and start searching for something new to captivate us and then realize the simple truth that the only thing that never gets old is the true newness that only God can give you. Everything under the sun is vain and meaningless; it all gets old sooner or later. There is only one thing that is continually new (rather SOMEONE). It‘s Jesus! He is always refreshing, restoring, and fulfilling. He’s amazing! The more you get of Him, the better! He truly satisfies your heart’s desire and doesn’t leave you empty.

For some time now, it’s been on my heart to re-read (and re-post) something that I wrote last year. I always feel weird saying “I wrote”, though, because I don’t really feel like “I” ever write anything. I have no ability on my own to write anything worthwhile. If any blog has an impact, it’s because God did it. I can’t even tell you how often I am blessed (and re-blessed) as I read over the things that end up getting typed on this screen. When you just KNOW that God is teaching you something, and that you couldn’t have possibly come up with it on your own, that’s simply the greatest thing ever! I think that’s why He’s been nudging me to repost the following blog because He knows that I need the reminder just as much as anyone. I confess that I have been very stressed and depressed. That’s pretty typical for me during the winter, which is why I always dread October through about February. This year, it has seemed to be a little worse than normal, but I think I am starting to “snap out of it” like I usually do. It just takes prayer and perseverance (and the support of TOTALLY awesome friends! Thanks to all who have, and are, praying for me! I deeply appreciate it! Thank you for carrying me and helping me bear my burdens!).

I hope the following blog helps you as much as it did me. I also hope that you will consider reading “A Simple Christmas” by Mike Huckabee. It’s a short little book, but it’s very touching (as well as humorous). I was deeply moved and encouraged by it, and it was a great boost for me. May we all remember that true peace and joy really does come from the simple things; the things that don’t come from a store and all wrapped up with paper and bows. Grace and peace to you all!!! Merry Christmas!!

***

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

Do you ever feel like Solomon, like there is nothing new and that everything is just the same old thing? Does it seem like everything just repeats itself over and over again? Such is the case with me the older that I get (and I am only 27!). I find that there is nothing "new under the sun" and that everything just cycles and repeats in a monotonous routine. It's how I felt when beginning to write because I struggled to come up with something beautiful, inspiring, and focused on the reason for Christmas.

Though, the more I tried, the more cliché it seemed. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing cliché about Christ's birth and the miracle of what God has done for us. What I'm talking about is the tireless beat of the drum at this time of year. The whole "in the midst of your shopping, get-togethers, etc. don't forget that He's the reason for the season." I mean, don't we all know that by now? We are reminded of it every single year. Yet, everything repeats. We get through the holidays, celebrate a new year, and the seasons change, holidays come and go, and everything just keep going and repeating.

How do we stay fresh in a world that has gone stale? How do we find the "newness" under the sun? Well, my friends, I think that we need to think about things a little differently than Solomon. He was probably the wisest human to ever live, and yet, he seemed so empty. That is why he came to the conclusion that there was nothing "new" and that all had been done before because he had "been there, done that" so much. Hence, he became bored and discontent when there was seemingly nothing new left to discover or experience. So, of course there was "nothing new under the sun" because nothing under the sun can fulfill! ALL of it will grow cold and lose its luster! This world cannot offer us anything that lasts.

Thankfully, since Solomon's time, we have been blessed with something truly new: the new covenant! Now THAT would have been something for him to discover and experience! Maybe he wouldn't have been so bored if he could have had the renewal that all of us can have in Christ every day of our lives! Though, even with all this "newness" at our fingertips, we STILL get bored because we are still searching for fulfillment under the sun rather than the SON!

This concept provokes deep thoughts in my heart. It stirs me because I know that I get "bored" a lot. Though, I don't suppose there is much excuse for that when there is so much joy, fulfillment, and LIFE in Christ (which is FAR from boring)! Yet, we still get stuck in the temporal things and wonder why we are wasting away inside.

Christ never gets old, and the newness doesn't lose it's luster. It's our desire for him that sometimes wears away. We get busy, distracted, and overloaded with responsibilities (and even the blessings) of our lives. Just like Solomon, we can have so much and still be so bored and discontent. Dear friends, this need not be! Jesus said that he came to give us life to the fullest (John 10:10). Life isn't found in the temporal things, but the things that are unseen and non-material (2 Corinthians 4:18). The unseen things are what last, and what will fill us and bring us joy. These are the things of the Spirit; the untouchables that we cannot get our hands on, but fill us beyond measure! It's the loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled moments that bring us unfathomable renewal, and keep us from getting bored, apathetic, and on a downward spiral in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).

I pray that we would do more than just "survive" the season and breeze through all the traditions, rituals, etc. I pray that we will remember the "Jesus is the reason for the season" mantra, but that it will truly sink into our hearts. I pray that the newness the Son brings will fill us up with gladness as we focus on the freshness that Jesus can bring to each moment of our lives; whether we have experienced them over and over again or not!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Have a truly blessed Christmas as you celebrate the Son!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pilgrims, Indians, and Dinosaurs

For some reason, Casey is just crazy about holidays! Whenever he knows one is coming up, that's all he talks about! Maybe it's because they learn so much about it at school, and sing the songs, make the crafts, etc. I've heard tons of songs/chants about turkeys, pilgrims, Indians, etc. It's all so cute and it reminds you just how fun, exciting, and simple the whole essence of the holiday is (as well as our heritage). It's all too easy, as an adult, to forget the joy of a holiday (or any day/moment). It's nice to be reminded of the simple joys!

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday because it's nearly untainted by the media and doesn't come with a bunch of hype (well, other than hearing about "after Thanksgiving" sales). It's a time where we are reminded to think and reflect on our blessings and truly be grateful. It's a humble and beautiful thing, and something that should be done every day.

With that being said, I don't have much else to say because there isn't much I can add to something as pure and humble as Thanksgiving. As I said, I was reminded of just how simple and wonderful everything can be when you are looking at it through the eyes of a child. That's why I wanted to share this very cute (and somewhat humorous) picture that Casey brought home from school. I hope it brings a smile to your face and warmth to your heart as it did to mine (the part I thought was most funny is that he didn't forget to include a remote control! That's a boy for you, right? LOL!!). I asked Casey who the people were in the picture. The guy at the door is "Squanto", the one on the chair is a "pilgrim", and the one holding the remote is an "Indian". I think we will be able to make his Thanksgiving wish come true in regards to letting him watch his beloved dinosaurs on TV at Papaw and Mamaw's house, but I don't think that any real pilgrims or Indians will be in attendance around our table (although, I venture to say, I often feel as though my children act like wild Indians - and I don't mean that disrespectfully to any Native Americans who are reading). Although, the kids COULD wear the special hats that Casey made at school - one pilgrim hat and one Indian hat. That would make for a good picture! LOL

All the hand-print turkey projects, coloring pages, and other crafts have all brought a smile to my face. Though, the one thing that most blew me away was the beautiful cornucopia that he drew. At first, I thought it was a coloring page that he simply colored, but no.....HE DREW/COLORED it himself!! Personally, I marvel at his artistic ability and interest in drawing because I don't know that I could top him! Seriously, I don't think I could draw much better than him!! And, the best part is, everything he makes comes from that amazing pure heart of his! He's just so innocent and honest about what he's drawing!! And, once again, his depiction of Thanksgiving includes dinosaurs lol. He made sure to include many of them around the cornucopia. ;) I chuckle to think of a dinosaur sitting around the table at that very first Thanksgiving. Can you imagine trying to share a meal with a T-Rex (without BEING a meal?). Ha ha!

So, here's to hoping that your Thanksgiving is beautiful, bountiful, and humble!! Grace and peace to you as you reflect on all your many simple blessings!! And please know, I am SO GRATEFUL for all of you who are in my life!! God bless you all!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bowls of Steel

Some of the most moving and teachable moments come when you don’t expect them. In a way, it’s almost like a sneeze. It comes out of nowhere, but it wells up inside you and then demands to be released. Often times, it can be awkward (and sometimes painful) but you feel relieved for having gotten through it and releasing the impact of that moment.

I had such an experience today as I sat down to read “A Simple Christmas” by Mike Huckabee. As most of you know, I had the opportunity to meet him (again!) at his book signing in Indianapolis. This isn’t his first book, but it’s the first book of his that I have read (thus far). While waiting for his arrival, I eagerly began reading it. Some of his stories are little humorous while others are more serious. Today, I read one of those more somber stories and the impact of it kind of snuck up on me (but gave me much to ponder and reflect on).

Mike Huckabee really knows how to tell a story, and the story I just read had to do with his Uncle Garvin. He shared about the good times he and his sister had with him and how they always looked forward to his visits. Uncle Garvin was a bachelor, and fairly well off (and always dressed in a suit). He described him as having to answer to no one, and being very independent.

He said all of that changed when Uncle Garvin found out that he had cancer. In those days, it was pretty much a death sentence (and such was the case for him). Uncle Garvin ended up living with the Huckabees for the last few months of his life. Mike said it was such a difficult time. Being twelve years old, it was a hard adjustment to have to give up your room and help take care of a person who is having his life stolen from him before your very eyes. He said, “In so many ways, I became a man that year. I was forced to face the realities of death and the uncertainties of life. I saw life in its ugliest form, when a disease robs a person of his strength, his pride, his privacy, and his ability to choose even the simplest things. More than being robbed of my youth, I was endowed with an extra dose of maturity and adulthood the very year I would become a teenager, 1968.”

Though, as often times is the case, it’s the hardship that most shapes your character, deepens your faith, and molds you into a better person. He concluded the chapter with these words: “My sister and I didn’t get much that year for Christmas. We had been prepared to not expect much because all our resources needed to be used to care for Uncle Garvin and there really wasn’t time for much else. But in many ways, it was one of our most meaningful Christmas experiences ever, not because it was a happy one, but because it wasn’t. It was meaningful because through it we learned that the real meaning of Christmas is not giving toys but giving God’s grace in person to someone who is no longer in a position to give back. It was a very simple Christmas, and maybe the best one of all.”

The whole time I was reading that precious story, the tears were just streaming down my face. The way he recounts a story with such depth, detail, and emotion always touches my heart. He truly has a way of connecting with people, and it’s no doubt because of such wonderful people, like Uncle Garvin, that shaped his heart and life. Every experience, whether pleasant or painful, has developed his character and enabled him to “pay it forward” to others. I admire people like Mike Huckabee, because they never waste a moment. They cherish every experience and hide it in their hearts; sharing it at just the right moment with others so that their lives might be touched and blessed.

Oddly enough, my kids were watching an episode of “Arthur” on TV as I was reading that chapter. Amazingly, it happened to be an episode where the characters were dealing with the fact that their beloved school lunch-lady was battling cancer. One of the kids ended up writing to Lance Armstrong for help with coping with their friend’s disease. Lance made an appearance in the episode and offered his own advice and shared his story. I just found it stunning that God would bring two stories about cancer, perseverance, and love to my attention at the same time. I never saw it coming, and it was a tender and heart-wrenching moment for my sensitive heart, but it was such a blessing.

When you ponder and empathize with a person’s story, you open yourself up to sharing a portion of their pain. It changes you. It shapes you. It helps you to examine your own heart and gleam from their stories life lessons that can help you on your own journey. For me, it spoke richly of compassion, love, sacrifice, and faith. It also reminded me of my own “Uncle Garvin” (in my case, my Uncle Brett). Like Mike, I deeply enjoyed the few times a year I got to see my Uncle. He was a bachelor too, and was always doing his own thing. And, like Uncle Garvin, he struggled with the inevitable drawback of independence which is loneliness. Mike Huckabee said that Uncle Garvin would bang on a stainless-steel bowl with a wooden spoon in order to summon them to his room for whatever need he might have had at the moment. He said, “It would be years before I came to realize that he didn’t strike that bowl and have us running to his side simply because he wanted us to refresh his water, fiddle around with the covers on his bed, or rearrange the newspapers in the room. That bowl was a cry for something far more important; it was a call for the presence of another human being in that room so that he wouldn’t spend those awful and painful waking moments with a condition worse than a cancer --loneliness.”

These stories were a reminder to me of just how precious fellowship is and just how thankful I am for the blessed family and friends in my life who bring me so much joy! It also reminds me of just how great the need is to reach out to those that aren’t so blessed, and who are battling loneliness, grief, and illness. Some of them don’t have steel bowls to bang in order to be heard. For many, their cries are silent for whatever reason. They go unheard and unremembered; or we just become deafened to the sounds because we shut them out for any number of reasons. It reminds me of all the people I saw in the nursing home when I used to visit my great-grandmother in the last year or so of her life. They were aching for attention and fellowship; a simple smile, a kind word, a tender touch. My kids would excitedly run down the hallway as they smiled and watched. Some of them desperately begged them to stop because they wanted to talk to them, touch them, look at them (fee free to read/re-read the blog I posted about that and how Casey was a model example of compassion and love). Such simple things, but so necessary and fundamental! It was heartbreaking to watch them (and my Grandmother) sit there in the nursing home; just WAITING for those occasional opportunities for human contact and interaction. We underestimate just how precious and important it is! I’ll never forget how Grandma looked at me one time and said, “Never end up in a place like this.” Even though she was blessed more than probably most of the people there (because she had a lot of family that cared for her and visited her) it still had to be incredibly depressing and lonely. I can hardly imagine, and it makes me feel all the more blessed (and all the more guilty in the times I indulge in apathetic pity-parties in what I think are my “low” moments).

As we all approach the holidays, I will do more than remember these stories. I will try to make the most of every opportunity I have to answer the call of a banging bowl. Not only does it mean the world to those who are trying to sound the alarm with their wooden spoons, but it has an everlasting impact on oneself (just as Mike Huckabee shared). You never know if it’s going to be your last moment (or theirs). That’s why it’s important to make every moment count and to have the greatest impact possible! You never know when it’s going to end. For my family and I, Uncle Brett was taken so suddenly and tragically (by accident). For Mike Huckabee, it was gradual and they had to watch the process of death unfold before them each and every day. I don’t know which is more painfully difficult. I don’t think there is any way to compare because each situation is a unique horror all its own. Though, we all stand to gain the same opportunities, which are to grow in faith and maturity and to learn to appreciate and love both friends and strangers even more (which C.S. Lewis talks about in “A Grief Observed”. I HIGHLY recommend reading it!!).

Pain is a raw thing. Like anything that’s raw, it can be a hot and time consuming process to go through the heat and the flames that sear our hearts. But, as one of our pastors always says: “Feel the heat; face the fire; find the gold.” As we feel the heat and the pressure of each trying situation, we are obligated to face them. If we boldly confront the pain and embrace the gold we are meant to find in it, we will be all the richer for it. The heat isn’t a pleasant thing, but through it, we are refined and “steamed to perfection” and it “brings out the flavor” of our character into a better and more savory taste. We have more to offer the world after going through such times of testing, and it’s in that way that those times of pain can be a gift. Though, it’s up to us to make the most of it. It reminds me of a forward someone shared with me about an egg, a carrot, and some coffee grounds. Hot water does different things to each of them. Some are like the egg and they become hardened. Others are like the carrot and they become mushy and fall apart. Still others become like the coffee grounds in which the hot water brings out their flavor and the process ends up producing a beautiful end product. With each object, the effects of the hot water can’t be avoided or undone. The object will forever be changed after coming into contact with the hot water. The only choice we have in the matter is our reaction to the water. So, the question is, which of these three things will we choose to be?

Grace and peace to all of you, my dear friends!! May you all be blessed as you face each day! Every day is a wonderful new day that the Lord has made; one to rejoice and be glad of, regardless of our good or bad circumstances. We have the promise that everything will work out (Romans 8:28). Embrace it and believe it! Cherish every moment and make the most of every opportunity (and may you never look at a steel bowl or wooden spoon the same way again). Above all, allow each experience to shape you in a positive way that will glorify His Name! God bless you all!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

God on the Greenway: Yielding

If there’s one thing that I have learned the importance of, it’s the value of yielding!! I’ve learned this principle the most while running around town and on the River Greenway. Yes, I admit, I most enjoy running uninterrupted. However, yielding is something I have had to learn and practice frequently (especially if I want to live to run another day!). ;)

You might recall that I once blogged about how I had to stop and tie my shoes. I pointed out that it’s better to stop and tie loose ends at that point rather than risk being stopped more roughly via a trip or a tumble! It’s a surrender issue either way you look at it. Either you surrender and fix a problem (and possibly save yourself from unpleasant consequences) or, you surrender to your pride (and possibly pay for it later)! Regardless, I think surrender is often inconvenient and loathsome to us, but since it MUST be done (one way or the other) which choice is obviously the better one?

The surrender/yielding issue has come up so many times in my running. One day in particular, I had it staring me right in the face! It happened as I was waiting to cross an intersection. I waited for the little white walking man to light up and when he did, I started running across. As I did, a huge tour bus (or something like it) was turning right in front of me!! I had a split second to decide what to do. If I continued, I would have been road pizza! But, because I YIELDED (even though I had the right of way!!) I was spared! I remember standing there in that intersection; looking at the short distance between me and the front of that bus and how close I had come. I looked up at the driver and threw my hands up in the air and said, “EXCUSE me!” I couldn’t clearly read the driver’s lips, but I think he/she was about as stunned as I was! I think they also knew that they were in the wrong and they waited as I finished getting across.

I thanked/praised God for saving me and for giving me the presence of mind to make the right split second decision. I wondered to myself about what I might have done had I had the mentality of, “No, it’s MY turn! I have the right of way! I shouldn’t have to stop! I’m going to keep going!” If I had an “about me” attitude, it literally would have killed me! The Bible isn’t making stuff up when it says: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.“ - Proverbs 16:18 (KJV). Pride can and will kill you, but yielding saves your life! “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” - Matthew 10:39 (KJV). If you live for self, you’ll lose yourself (soul). However, if you lose yourself for Christ, your retain your self (soul) and live forevermore!

Yielding is an issue of either stubborn resistance or humble surrender. I know our sin nature makes it incredibly hard for us to do the right thing, but it’s not impossible. In fact, I think it’s simple enough that a DOG can do it! You can train a dog to yield to its master can’t you? Why can’t we yield to ours? I saw the perfect example of that on another occasion when I was running on the Greenway. I was going past a couple walking their dog when I saw it lay down behind them. I didn’t understand what it was doing. Most dogs get excited and try to come up and sniff you or something, but not this one. I thought that maybe this dog was tired from the heat or maybe just wanted to sit and watch me go by for some reason. Or, maybe it was just being a little “difficult” with its owners and didn’t want to walk anymore. However, I found out that none of these things were true! When I passed them again, after I had turned around, the dog once again laid down when it saw me coming. I smiled and asked the people if she was hot or tired. They said, “No, we trained her to do that.” I was just blown away by that! I thought it was amazing that they had instilled in the dog that kind of humbleness and respect! Like I said, many dogs on the Greenway are so excited and wrapped up in their own adventure of walking, sniffing, and um…..well, you know…that they don’t have time to “wait” on anyone or anything (remember Hitch…the inspiring, but hyper, dog?). This dog was a refreshing exception! I was humbled and refreshed by her graceful behavior. She had respectfully “bowed” (in a sense) to me. She laid down and put me above herself. It makes me think of these two verses:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” - Philippians 2:3 (KJV)

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 14:11 (KJV)

What would happen if we honored God (and others) more than ourselves? What would happen if we ALL put pride and selfishness aside? What if we stopped pursuing our own desires and agendas and just bowed down in respect, humility, and service a lot more often? Can you imagine how much sweeter this world would be if we treated one another with this kind of mutual love and respect? Personally, whenever I see a glimpse of this, I grab onto it and treasure it in my heart. I cherish those moments and use them as fuel for my own behavior. Of course, I’m not perfect, but I strive to have a yielded heart of servanthood and submission!

Grace and peace to all of you! I pray that each and every one of us will learn to put our pride aside and yield to the Father’s Will! Pride can only bring us misery and destruction, but surrender brings us joy and life!! Yes, it can be difficult, but it’s far less painful than self-made problems resulting from our refusal to yield!! God bless you all!!

God on the Greenway: Sunglasses

I love sunglasses! In fact, I have several pairs; all different colors and styles. As much as I love them for style, I also love them for their purpose. That’s why I often wear a pair when I am running on the Greenway. Otherwise, the sun can be nearly blinding!

Of course, there are often days where sunglasses aren’t extremely needed. Either it’s cloudy, or the sun is almost set for the day (I usually run in the evenings). I often start out wearing them and then perch them on my head when it starts getting dark. However, the darkness is so gradual that I often end up wearing them for longer than necessary. Then, when I finally realize how dark it has gotten, I take them off and I’m like, “Whoa!” I feel a little disoriented for a second as I adjust to the dim light. What a difference! It’s like a veil being lifted!

Every time I have done that, I think about the metaphorical sunglasses we all wear. They are like masks. I read once that people who habitually wear sunglasses sometimes do it as a comfort or as a way to kind of hide behind a wall. It’s a form of protection (besides the obvious protection from the sun). I’ve caught myself doing that. When you wear sunglasses, no one can see your eyes and look into them. The eyes are the window to the soul; the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22, Luke 11:34). Sometimes, like on the Greenway, I like “hiding” myself from people. I don’t want to look at them or have them look at me. I’m focused on my run and I don’t want to be bothered. So, if I have my glasses on, they can’t see if I’m looking at them or not and wouldn’t be able to make a judgment about whether I was staring at them or ignoring them. It’s kind of like in the movie “Big Daddy” where Adam Sandler’s character gives the little boy some sunglasses so that he can put them on and be “invisible” if he feels shy or scared. That’s another reason I like wearing my glasses on the Greenway. I’m not only shielded from the glare of the sun, but of the glares (whether real or not) from others. I become invisible! ;)

That’s probably why I forget to take them off when I should. I become so comfortable in them that I don’t want to take them off; even as my view becomes darker and darker. It’s SO EASY to end up doing that in real life as well! We are wearing our metaphorical sunglasses. Whatever style or shade of lens we have, we are shielding ourselves from something and building a false sense of security. Maybe some are wearing the “invisible glasses” (like me). Or, on the flip side, maybe they are the “LOOK AT ME!” sunglasses. You don’t want to be invisible. On the contrary, you are practically BEGGING for someone to notice you and pay attention to you! So, you do that by setting yourself apart with a “trademark” kind of look (like Dennis Rodman who is so “cool” that he has to wear them all the time).

In addition to whether we want to be noticed or not, we also got different “shades” don’t we? Some glasses are nearly transparent; open, inviting, and not really trying to hide anything. Then, you have the REALLY dark shades or shades that are tinted different colors. You know how there’s that saying about having the rosy tinted glasses? Yeah, some people view the world in beautiful shades while others see the world as a dark place.

In all instances, I think there comes a time where we have to take the glasses off and face the sun (more specifically, the Son). We have to break out of our comfort zones and allow the light to shine in our darkness. Yes, we often fear the light and think it will be too much, but how soon we forget all that the light chases away (and that light brings warmth as well as clarity). Light is GOOD! It opens our eyes to the fact that darkness isn’t our comfort or our friend. It’s LIGHT that liberates us!

Psalm 84:11 says: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (KJV). God is my light AND my protection! Pretty awesome! He is my lamp who turns my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29). I don’t have to grope in darkness like a drunkard (Job 12:25). I choose light, for it is better than darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:13). I will live as a child of light (Ephesians 5:8) for that is what He calls me to do (1 Peter 2:9). I do not belong to the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5). I will do my best to make sure His light shines in me and that my light will burn brightly and not be a dark one (Luke 11:35).

Grace and peace to all of you!! I pray that you are all walking in the unveiled light of God’s glory!! There is warmth, beauty, and clear sight in Him! If you haven’t experienced it, I pray that your day is dawning and that you will “see the light” (Matthew 4:16). John 1:5 says: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” I pray that everyone will indeed comprehend and understand the light that is shining in their darkness. It is Christ reaching out to save, heal, and restore!! God bless you all!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Celebrating Brett

Today is October 25th. Usually, on this day, I re-post something that I wrote in memory of my beloved uncle (who passed away sixteen years ago). This time, I’m not going to re-post that blog (though you can read it by clicking here). Even though it was a good post about processing grief, and learning how to appreciate the people in your life before it’s too late, I feel that now is the time to write a post that concentrates on celebrating his life. Everyone still misses him, and that‘s why it’s time to tell the world WHY we miss him. His life was a life that touched so many and he truly made an impact on everyone he met!

If I had to describe my uncle Brett in one word, I doubt I would be able to do it. Not only because I always have so many things to say, but because someone like him cannot be contained in one word. The uncle Brett I remember was an incredibly handsome, charming, funny, loving, and talented man who could really make you smile! And, as my Mom and aunt can attest to, he was also very ornery and they have been the butt of his jokes many times (though, my Mom has shared stories with me about how they pulled their own jokes on him!). The family and friends that know him best can probably tell you funnier and better stories than I can! The only ones I have are the ones that I have heard or have seen firsthand in the few years that I knew him (I was in fifth grade when he died).


One of the first memories that comes to mind is the time my Mom, brother, and I visited him at his place. He had his synthesizer set up and he allowed me to play on it. Without my knowledge, he recorded me as I played something from memory. Then, he boasted that he could play that same thing using only his nose! Of course, I thought that was impossible, but he proved me wrong - well, sort of!! I watched in astonishment as I heard my exact song playing as his nose moved up and down the keyboard! Knowing him (and the fact that I hadn’t played a simple chopsticks!) I figured he had tricked me somehow! Mom says my expression was priceless! He never would admit that he tricked me. In fact, he always insisted that he could still do it, but that it would have to be another time because he had a cold or something and couldn’t use his nose that day. ;) It was kind of a running gag between us. He was so funny! Grandma always said he was so good at getting people to fall for such outlandish things (he “got her” a LOT!). ;)

The other thing I remember most about him is his music. I would LOVE to be able to share a song of his with you, but I can’t. Everything he recorded is on cassette tapes. Maybe one day, we will have them converted but until then, you’ll have to take my word for it that he was VERY talented!! I remember we used to listen to his tape in the car non-stop! One of the ones that my brother and I liked best was “The Ice Cream Song”. It started: “Going to the Country Kitchen. I’ve got some dinner on my mind….” The chorus, addressed to the waitress, was something my brother and I always liked to say: “Helen, Helen, I want some ice cream. I used to get it here free all the time….all the time I want some ice cream.” I know, it’s hard to appreciate it or understand it if you haven’t heard it with the music, but trust me….it gets stuck in your head (I’m humming it to myself right now! Won‘t be able to get it out of my head!).

Aside from his original compositions, he also sang a lot of well-known songs. He used to have a band called “R-Tyme” (family/friends, I hope I remembered and spelled it correctly!) and I remember my brother constantly singing “Johnny Be Good” after seeing/hearing my uncle perform it. Uncle Brett made Michael J. Fox’s “Back to the Future” version look like child‘s play!

There are three other songs that I remember him singing/playing that I was especially fond of. One of them was “Rocky Top” (my brother and I LOVED this one!). Another one was “Alone” by Heart. He played that song on one of his visits to our house. I was really young, and I remember how much I loved the piano solo at the beginning of the song (and it always takes me back to that memory when I hear that song today). I remember I was dancing in circles like I was a ballerina or something. He was making up his own lyrics as he went along. I remember him singing that I was a pretty dancer or something. ;)

By far, the song/memory that stands out most in my mind is when he played the song “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. It was during Thanksgiving 1985. I was three years old and my brother was a newborn and we were at my grandparents house. He played the song and his friend, Rosie, sang it. My Dad had a BETA recorder (um, yeah…..it preceded VHS tapes lol) and he taped it. Recently, my Dad got those tapes converted to DVD. The picture and sound isn’t very good, but it’s so precious to be able to watch again! I don’t have the right programs to convert it and put it on YouTube (and if I do, I don‘t know how to use it) so I just played it on the computer and videoed it with my digital camera and uploaded it that way. I hope you can see/hear it alright (and yes, the little girl running from Mom‘s lap to Grandma‘s is me)!! It is my great joy, honor, and pleasure to share it with you!!! This song has become “Brett’s Song” to many of us (at least to me). It used to be difficult for any of us to hear it (Mom used to change the station immediately if it came on the radio). Now, however, I can listen to it and enjoy it. Though, I do still tear up from time to time (see video at the end of the blog).

There is a lot more that I could say and share with you, but to tell you the truth, he really leaves me speechless. Greater than all of the things I mentioned was his love for others. He was extremely giving! And, towards my brother and I, he loved us as if we were his own and was extremely kind and generous to us in so many ways! I remember telling him one time that I had a “boyfriend” and he said, “Well, you tell him that he has to go through Uncle Brett first!” That always makes me smile, but yet, sad that my husband never got to “go through” him and get to know him (sadder still that he didn’t get to know our kids). However, I am glad that this world had him for the short time that he was here and I know that his legacy lives on (and so does he).

I hope that this blog, pictures, and this priceless video, has given you an idea of how amazing, funny, talented, and special my uncle was (and still is to so many!). I remember my Mom telling me that there were SO MANY people that came to see him at his viewing. I can only imagine the countless stories and memories that people have of him! If you are one of those people, and you would like to share, leave a comment! I would love to read them (as I’m sure all those that know and love him would too!).

Grace and peace to all of you!! Thank you for reading! It has been my joy to share these memories and I hope you have enjoyed them too!! God bless you!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blessed Peace and Rest

In the past few weeks, I have had some rough moments. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that emotionally and spiritually, I have felt down. In times like these, I cling to what I know and not to what I feel. Yet, it can be frustrating when you are waiting for your feelings to catch up to your faith.

I’ve had some of my dear friends say prayers over me recently, and each time I felt a renewed sense of peace. One of the many things that I often struggle with is just the personal pressure I unnecessarily put on myself (and my fears of letting others down if I don’t come through for people). Though, as I heard recently during the church service before my friend Jama’s baptism, we are human BEINGS and not human DOINGS. The preacher is absolutely right in that he was saying that we get so caught up in the daily grind of “doing” that we forget how to just “be”. That is one message that I constantly need reminded of! It brings to mind a verse that was shared with me years ago about how we “do and do” and refuse rest. It’s in Isaiah 28:12-13: to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"—but they would not listen. So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there—so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. (NIV)

It’s not that our “doings” are bad things. After all, we do have responsibilities as well as serving opportunities. What it all comes down to is that “b” word (that I always find hard to define) which is “balance.” And, as the pastor pointed out, God CHOSE to rest on the seventh day. We must also choose to rest, to recharge, to remember to “be still and know” (Psalm 46:10). Otherwise, we will wear ourselves out and be just like those in that last verse. Overdoing it can definitely cause us to fall backward (rather, backslide) get us injured, snared, and captured (by the enemy). Think about it.

In connection with the “pressure” that I put on myself is usually an accompanying worry and/or condemnation. Of course, I truly know better than that because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1) but nonetheless, I still get attacked with it from time to time. Satan would love nothing more than to try to enslave me back into a shell of low self-worth and self-loathing. However, that’s what prayer is for! My sweet prayer sister and mentor, Kim, asked God to affirm to me what HE thinks of me. In my mind, the phrase was: “I think: I love you.” The response I felt was, “So what am I so afraid of?” (to the tune of that all familiar song by David Cassidy).

That moment wasn’t about the song, but about the concept. Though, remembering the tune is what keeps me singing it back to God any time I start to forget these two key verses:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. - Romans 8:15 (KJV).

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. - 1 John 4:18 (KJV)


Do you know what God thinks of me (and you)? His first thought is “I love you.” If He loves us, why do we fear? That’s what I keep asking myself. As a daughter of the King, I am perfected in love. Grace doesn’t enslave me to fear, it’s what sets me free (Galatians 5:1)! My heavenly Father does not (and will not) condemn me and NOTHING can ever separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39)!

Furthermore, I needn’t try so hard and be “doing and doing“ all the time. The Holy Spirit will do His job and I will be content with whatever role I have. As my brother in Christ prayed for me recently, I felt the Holy Spirit assure me that He does want me. The one thing He said was that I am overcompensating. Often, I go beyond where the Holy Spirit wants to go. The perfect example is of how Mary had Jesus work a miracle before it was time. He even told her that His time had not yet come (in other words, she was rushing Him) but out of love and honor for His mother, He turned the water into wine (John 2:1-11).

I know that I sometimes do too much (and say too much). No doubt most of it is probably good things, but I know that it takes away from what the Holy Spirit wants to do (if I try to do too much of His job or rush His timing). I don’t want to slow down or jump-start whatever process He has in mind by being too eager or impatient. I don’t want to limit Him or others by taking away from it all by being over-involved. All the more reason to remember to “rest” and “be” and to “wait” on the Lord. And if it takes a mild illness (such as I have been battling the last few days) to remind me of that, then it’s been worth it!!

This isn’t the first time I have learned this “lesson” but it seems like it takes repetition of a concept (and often in various forms) before something truly becomes cemented into your heart. I hope that I don’t have to learn it too many more times. ;) I hope that as I think on this more and more, I will become better at being concise with my words and actions and that I will no longer be one who “overcompensates.”

May the grace and peace of our heavenly Father be with you!! God bless you!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God on the Greenway: Questions and Answers

Indiana weather; love it or hate it, it is what it is. Temperamental? Yes, VERY! However, it has its way of giving you a few pleasant curveballs. Yesterday, for example, was that kind of day. It had been cool, rainy, sunny, and just about everything in-between for most of the week and that’s pretty much how it was yesterday too. Generally, it was cool and mainly sunny. Not too bad. It made for great running weather!

As much as I love the warm summery days, I also enjoy the cooler ones. Most agree that summer is probably the sweetest time of the year. However, each season has its perks. Summer may be sunny, warm, and bursting with life, but for people like me it’s also allergy season (not to mention humidity, sweat, and other unpleasantries). That’s why the coolness of fall is such a nice change of pace. I can run outside without having to take OTC allergy medicine to keep my itchy eyes and sinus issues at bay. Also, I don’t get as hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. I don’t have to pray for some light sprinkles or a cool breeze to cool me off at this time of year! So, I pretty much have it made! Plus, who doesn’t like cozy sweaters, fireplaces, hot chocolate, and some light snow from time to time? And, as hectic as the holidays can be, they are still many fun moments of celebrations and togetherness. But yeah, of course there can be rough weather in the fall/winter months. When it’s extremely cold and dark outside, that’s no fun. I also get saddened by the dead trees and the fact that the wildlife and all of creation is starting to go into “sleep mode.” It makes me think of the beautiful song by Nichole Nordeman: “Every Season.” (Watch the video I found! It takes you on the beautiful journey through each season and the symbolism of Jesus and his birth, life, death, and resurrection! Think about it!).




As I prayed for the strength and endurance to run yesterday, I tried to concentrate on all the positives generated by the season change. I even decided to “change” things up on my iPod. Sometimes I listen to my own custom playlists. Other times, I just let it shuffle and have God choose my songs for me. In fact, the last time I ran, I ended up listening to some songs that I hadn’t heard in a long time (some even for the first time). All of them seemingly speaking a message to me from God. Each song I listened to had a couple common themes. One being that God was assuring me that He would never leave me (in fact, that was the title of one of the songs). The other one being a “hang in there” type of message. As much as I sometimes hate that cliché, I actually cherished it after that run because it had a fresh meaning to it and I truly had some hope. Those of you that are closest to me know why I say that and what I’m talking about here.

One of those “hang in there” songs was by Todd Agnew. It was off a CD that Mitch had gotten a long time ago. We both synced it to our iPods, but I had personally never listened to it. Imagine my surprise when the song “Still Has A Hold” started playing. At first, I wasn’t sure who was singing. It was only a voice at the start, and it sounded slightly off pitch (Todd Agnew sounds like a mix of Johnny Cash and Jeremy Camp - and I mean that in a good way). At first, I thought it was some corny song off of one of the kids’ albums that I have in my iPod (which I play in the car for them - when I can tolerate it anyways lol). I had already run into a few “kiddie tracks” in shuffle mode and had skipped over them. I was about ready to do it again, but my curiosity caused me to avoid pressing the “next” button. I soon realized that it wasn’t “kiddie music”. In fact, I really started liking the song. I was blown away by the music and the lyrics. I was also wondering why I hadn’t bothered to listen to it before! That song totally spoke to me. I felt like it was MY song! I probably listened to it 2 or 3 times!



Remembering that instance, I decided I would see what else was on his “Better Questions” album. So, for my entire run, I listened to Todd Agnew and was pleasantly surprised and moved by every track that played! His lyrics were so personal, thought-provoking, and pure; very real and honest!! Most of his songs describe the daily battle within; the doubts, despairs, and struggles that we wrestle with. The song “If You Wanted Me” talks about how he’s glad that he’s not Peter, King David, or John the Baptist. He says he would have likely been too afraid to walk on water or wait in a jail cell for his “day to die”. And as for King David, he sings “I think I’ve fallen for more than Bathsheba. Your creation’s a temptation for me. If you wanted me to love you only why’d you make the moonlight sparkle in her eyes?” That’s a candid confession that makes you think! He winds up the song with: “If you wanted me to die to myself why’d you make me fall so deeply in love with life? If You wanted me to surrender why’d You make these hands able to hold on so tight? And if You wanted me to be like You why’d You make me like me?”

It certainly makes you ponder. What are the answers to those questions? Todd himself doesn’t even answer them! In fact, that was the only thing throughout the album that I thought was missing. He sings the words that so many of us wonder and don’t have the guts to ask or say. He even brilliantly brings Paul’s words and thoughts to life from Romans 7:14-24 in the song “War Inside.” It’s all about how we KNOW the good that we ought to do, but we don’t do it. Instead, we disobey and do the very things we shouldn’t and that we hate to do. Indeed, it is a “war inside”; the war of the flesh vs. the Spirit. The subject also arises in the song “Funny” as well. The song talks about how things like the big fish that swallowed Jonah and Balaam’s donkey and how they could hear and obey God’s commands. Yet, we who are made in the image of God and are favored above the rest of creation can’t seem to listen to Him. “Funny” indeed! It’s sad and ironic.

He also sings about the church’s lack of empathy and unity in the song “Peace on Earth”: “As long as we say prayers for our children that we do not pray for others there won’t be…and as long as we take offerings for those in need to appease our guilt over our greed….there’s won’t be….there won’t be peace on earth.” Similarly, he sings in “Lovers in Our Heads”: “Are we more concerned with the fruit of another never noticing our own barren branches? Are we more consumed with casting stones at each other while ignoring the lovers in our beds? Our own beds in our heads.”

What if we started loving each other the way we should; acting like the family of God like he sings about in the song “Family”: “We are all family. If we’re all under one Father, that makes us all brothers.” He goes on to say that we don’t’ have to be like or look like each other to be brothers. We don’t have to talk or dress like each other. We don’t have to go to the same church or think/agree on everything. God is our Father and His Love is the tie that binds. Therefore, shouldn’t we be functioning in unity? Yes! Yes we should (and YES WE CAN! There, let’s put that saying to REAL use people!).

I’m not sure why Todd doesn’t take the next step in his album. The songs seem “unfinished” in a way. Why didn’t he close the songs with the hope and promise of the victory that God’s grace brings to our lives? Was his purpose just to stir up questions and get people thinking so they would start seeking for themselves? Perhaps. After all, I’m not saying Todd doesn’t know the answers to the things he sings about (I’m sure he does). Maybe he was just trying to do what Jesus did. Jesus often asked others questions; though, not for his own benefit but for theirs. He already knew the answers; they didn’t. Even still, He goes on asking so that we will pursue HIM for the answers. Maybe that’s what Todd meant in his “prelude” where he says: “I’ve got better questions than I have answers. Better dreams that I have plans. I’ve got better thoughts than I have actions. So I built my house on what I thought was solid ground. But I know it could be sand.”

As I finished my run (and the album) I gave God thanks and praise for getting me through and for blessing me so much through the music. I deeply appreciated how “real” Todd’s music is and the songs meant a lot to me (and God knew I needed that!). I could relate to every single one, and many of them had that “cliffhanger” feeling (which, as described, can likely be a good thing!). However, there is still a lot of value in the “buts.“ “Buts” mean (like I’ve heard Dr. Phil say): ‘Forget everything I’ve just said. Now I’m going to tell you what I really mean.’ Jesus is always the “but”; the REAL meaning! Todd sings about all the struggles we go through and the reality of how sinful and wretched we are…..BUT…….there’s GRACE! BUT……..there’s JESUS!! Because of Him, our sins get canceled out and what it “really means” is that God forgives and forgets because Christ saved us from everything that comes before “but”!

I mentioned Romans 7:14-24 earlier, but it doesn’t end at 24. There is a 25th verse that states that Jesus Christ is our deliverer. Romans 8 then goes on to say that there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ and that we are to walk in the Spirit! Yes, my friends, that is our answer to all the questions! THAT is hope and truth!! Walking in the Spirit is where we find victory and eternal life!! Eternal life isn’t merely our reward in heaven with Christ forevermore as Todd sings about in “Martyr’s Song”. Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just give us victory “later” but life NOW! John 3:16 doesn’t say “will have everlasting life.” It simply says “have”. In other words, you “have” it the second you believe in Him. Everlasting life starts from THAT POINT FORWARD!! Life doesn’t begin when you die, because you don’t truly die. Life keeps continuing!! Our victory in Christ is for now AND always! He came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). So LIVE in victory! The war has already been won! He has set you free (Galatians 5:1 ) so don‘t despair! REJOICE!! “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” - Philippians 4:4. Live by the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5, Galatians 5:16) and don’t be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12 )!

Look at all these things: the weather, the seasons, the questions. All of these bring elements of change; often with uncertainties. We don’t always know what the weather will be like, but through technology we gain insight. We don’t always know EXACTLY how the seasons will pan out, but we know how they cycle and generally what to expect. Also, we live life with many questions; some of which we can’t and won’t have answers to until Jesus makes them all clear in the end. The one thing that is constant and certain in all of this is Christ. We have the assurance that He is the One and Only thing that never changes (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17). Isn’t that wonderfully refreshing and assuring?! We can count on our wonderful and perfect Heavenly Father whose unwavering and unfaltering character remains steadfast and strong! Amen to that!! He’ll always be there for us; no matter what changes we go through or how our seasons of life transition. He will always be there to ask (as well as answer) the many questions we have. All of it fitting together according to His plan (Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:6).

Grace and peace to all of you!! May God grant you the ability to persevere in everything you go through as you embrace the divine destiny that He has for you!! Sometimes it will be difficult, but His hand has a hold on you! He won’t let you go; even if you let go of Him! He’s always there and He’ll never leave you! He loves you so VERY VERY MUCH!! He’ll see you through every struggle and tough decision and even pick you up and dust you off if you’ve made a bad one. His love and grace is amazing!! Never forget that!! God bless you all!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Video: Steve and Me as Life Church (Spartan) Cheerleaders!!

Last Sunday, our church had a "Ministry Fair." So, they needed some cheerleaders to help encourage people to get involved. In SNL Spartan Cheerleader fashion, Steve Surbaugh and I gave it our best!!! :) Thank you Kimberly Gerber for the excellent script!! You and Steve are awesome people to work with and you both ROCK (and yes, the choreography was AWESOME!). ;) Gosh, that was so much fun and I look forward to doing that again!! It was great getting to act so goofy on stage and bring glory to God at the same time!! LOL Who would have thought that such silliness could be a gift/blessing from God?!! To Him be the glory!! Uh huh, uh huh, UH HUH!!! "Check us OUT!!" :)

Video: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=293774450569

God on the Greenway: Decisions

Before every run, there is a moment of evaluation. It’s a determination point. How far/long will I run? What is my pain level today? What am I capable of doing today? The answers to these questions shape what success I have on that particular run. The numbers my heart-rate monitor reflect in the end are the result of the decisions made before and during the journey.

The one thing that I can tell you with certainty is that regardless of how far or how long I run, there is one decision that stays the same: “I will do my best.” Sometimes, my best is 30 minutes on a busy or pain-filled day. Other times, it’s above and beyond that. My “best” can vary from day to day because every day is different. Though, my best is my best as long as I am giving it all I can. More and more, I compare my “bests” less and less because there is no comparison or competition (even against myself). As Aslan said to Lucy in Narnia, “Nothing happens the same way twice.”

Those were some of the things I was thinking of a couple weeks ago as I went for a run. I was wondering what my “best” would be like. The previous night, I had done a Turbo Jam video that I hadn’t done in a while and so I was feeling extremely sore. My back was feeling it the worst. So, when I pondered my plan of action on the Greenway, I started thinking about all the factors at hand. Time, I had. The pain….yeah, I had that too. The day - absolutely beautiful!! Clearly, my only obstacle was physical. I could definitely run four miles, but it was up to my body to cooperate. I prayed and thought out the possible ways that it could go. I could run one mile down and run one mile back. Or, I could run all the way down (2 miles) and then walk 2 back if my pain was truly bad. I wasn’t clearly decided on which option I would end up doing, but decided that when I approached the one mile marker, I would have a better idea of what I would do. Sometimes, you are absolutely certain about your objective and sometimes you’re not. When you’re not, baby steps will do.

As I began my run, I was taken in by the beauty of God’s creation as well as the great weather He had blessed me with. It was further enhanced by the Narnia soundtrack that I was listening to on my iPod (as I often do on the Greenway - it’s beautiful and peaceful music!). The more I ran, the more I enjoyed my surroundings and realized, I didn’t want to be done in just two miles - no matter how much it hurt. So, I knew that turning around at the one mile marker wasn’t happening (especially since I had plenty of time and I desperately needed to take advantage of it and burn as many calories as possible).

The next decision was whether I would turn around and run back two more miles or walk the last two? Without much thought, I decided on the first option. God had somehow numbed the pain in my back (or maybe it was the sports cream I used lol) and so I kept going. Even though my hips were what was feeling it the most (which is usually the case) I wanted to give until I couldn’t give anymore. I didn’t want to wimp out and walk if I didn’t have to yet.

As I reached the last mile or so of the journey, I almost wanted to quit. But, as often happens, I thought: “DON’T YOU DARE QUIT! NOT WHEN YOU’RE THIS CLOSE!” Not only that, but what business do I have quitting and saying “I can’t” when Christ tells me “YOU CAN!” (Philippians 4:13). Am I going to let Satan cut in on me while I’m running a good race (Galatians 5:7)? Absolutely not!! His pathetic attempts to get me to quit do NOT work (and he should know that by now but he still tries! He‘s just as stubborn as I am! LOL!).

Knowing that I would reach the end of my four miles in under 60 minutes, I resolved that that wouldn’t be the end. I WANTED that full hour! I wasn’t going to quit; even though I had gotten my four. So, I started running around the round-about at the end of the Greenway for those last 10 minutes or so. Sometimes, I feel silly doing that (yes, I have done it before!). You know what though? It IS silly! That is, if that’s all you EVER do! Some of us are on a round-about our whole lives and we never run the real thing because we are afraid to take a risk. We are afraid that we will stop and turn back or that we won’t make it. We are afraid of the unknowns and of so many variables. We are afraid; so very afraid! So, fear keeps us running in circles. But, at least it’s comfortable right? After all, we can stop doing that at any time and not have to worry about being stranded on the road we should have taken. Running circles in your own backyard is a lot safer than running down the street and back. However, do you really go anywhere? Why be like Will in “Good Will Hunting” and waste our time and talent just because of fear? In his particular case, a mind really was a beautiful thing that he was wasting. He was on a round-about; never stepping beyond the comfort of his own backyard. He was comfortable not taking risks because fear and pain told him that he shouldn’t. He wasted a long time believing that lie - and his friends knew it too. One of his buddies told him that he was sitting on a winning lottery ticket and was refusing to cash it in.

All these lessons were swimming through my mind as I finished up my run. I MADE IT! Sixty minutes and 800 calories! My pain was REALLY bad and yet, I did it! More importantly, HE did it. HE accomplished it in me! I didn’t do this on MY strength because truthfully, I had none!

You know what the icing on the cake is? It’s the fact that so many would probably think running four miles is a hellish nightmare and yet, I had run to hell and back lol. WHY would I do that? It’s because I know there is a reward at the finish line; cold water to drink and a hot shower. I will run the race and through Christ, go through hell and back because His blood already ensures that victory is mine and that I will cross that finish line and win! So, why give up? I got a reward waiting for me if I persevere (2 Chronicles 15:7, Hebrews 10:36, James 1:12).

This run caused me to think on my life and the race that I am running. Who or what am I letting cut in on me? Will I give up? What RIGHT do I have to give up when I have Christ saying that I can do it? Also, in what areas do I need to stop running in circles and take a risk? What fears do I need to surrender so that I don’t waste sitting on the winning lottery ticket? I don’t want to waste my mind, my life, and the talents He has blessed me with. Furthermore, I don’t want to cheat myself out of the rewards and blessings that God has for me. It’s clear. More often than not, the one cutting in on the race is “self.”

Grace and peace to all of you!! Keep running the race!! Persevere and be determined. Let no one (neither Satan, yourself, or others) cut in on you!! May you all have the courage to say that you “can” because HE says “you can!” I pray that you can get off any round-about in your life, surrender your fear, and start journeying towards your destination; knowing that even after you have gone through the best and the worst, there is water to quench your thirst and a hot shower to ease your pain! It’s all worth it! You will be replenished, restored, and rewarded in the end!! God bless you all!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walk for Life Grand Total Raised...

I told everyone that I would update everybody when I got a final total on how much was raised for The Hope Clinc via the Walk for Life. Well, I have that total: $18,633!! :) In 2007, it was over $20,000. However, considering the economy (and what looked to be a smaller group of walkers this year) I'd say that is pretty good!! :)

I was also told that I was once again the top fundraiser (and that is because of all you generous people who gave!!). Thank you all VERY MUCH for supporting The Hope Clinic!! You will make a difference for so many women and babies!!

Also, if you are reading this and wish you would have given, it's never too late! You can always send a contribution to The Hope Clinic via the address provided (or, consider supporting the local Crisis Pregnancy Center in your area). Thanks again and God bless you all!!!

The Hope Clinic
165 W Water St.
Berne
, IN 46711

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walk for Life Results!

Ok everyone! Here is my final Walk for Life update!!

Even though I didn’t raise as much as I did two years ago, I still did pretty well! All total, I had $1,558.00 in pledges (see final leader boards)! When I know the grand total raised overall, I will be sure to post it in a future blog.

Thank you SO MUCH to all who contributed!! God bless you!! EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR is going to be a blessing to a woman who walks in the clinic doors!!

The walk was great and it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY! I pulled the kids in the wagon and my Mom also walked with me. Right before we started, Casey spotted a baby right away. Both of my kids just LOVE babies! They alert me to them whenever they see one! Casey went right up to a crying little baby named Noah and let him hold his finger. Casey just stood there; gazing at him and trying to talk to him. It was so precious!! Casey has always been one who appreciates and loves others whether big or small. The unconditional love and compassion that he shows others always blows me away and touches my heart!




I think that’s about all that I have to say. The only other thing I would like to mention is that the annual pro-life memorial day is coming up. Please see their website for details (and to order your t-shirts). Also, as I mentioned in another blog, check out the website for Project Ultrasound. Read the testimonies of women who changed their minds about abortion because they had the chance to view that life through an ultrasound.

Grace and peace to all of you!! Thank you all for your support!! God bless you!!


Financial Pledges

1. New York - $1,000
2. Indiana - $383.00
3. South Carolina - $65.00
4. Tennessee - $45.00
5. Arizona, North Carolina, and Ohio - $20.00 each
6. Texas - $5.00

$1,558.00 total!


Prayer Pledges

1. Indiana - 11
2. South Carolina - 3
3. North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee - 1 each

17 Prayer Warriors!


Men Vs. Women

Men = 4 pledgers and 1 prayer warrior! ;)

Women = 28 pledgers and 16 prayer warriors!

WAY TO GO LADIES (and thank you gentlemen!)


Participating States 9/50

Arizona
Indiana
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Walk for Life Update: The Walk is This Saturday!

Well, you have probably read my previous blog about the Fashion Show (which was a very tiring but rewarding weekend). Now, I am preparing for my next big weekend which is the Walk for Life on Saturday. Yep, it’s finally here! That is why I need all you last minute pledgers to contact me by FRIDAY so that I can have your name, address, and pledge written down before I get up early in the morning on Saturday to go to the Walk!

Two years ago, my dear friend Heather walked with me (and Kaden too!). He was just a baby then and she was a single Mom. Oh what a difference a couple years make!! Now, Kaden is two, and Heather and Kaden’s father (Aaron) are now married. Better yet, they now have a brand new baby daughter; Kathryn Joy. It’s a blessing to see her and her sweet family! Even greater than that is knowing that even when she thought she was going to forever be a single Mom, Heather made the choice for LIFE for Kaden! Abortion was NEVER an option for her (praise God for that!). And, because of a Crisis Pregnancy Center, she had the support and counsel she needed to get through those uncertain times!! Way to go Heather! I wish you could walk with me again, but I know that you have a new bundle of JOY to attend to! Though, I am proud to say, that my Mom (who will be visiting from South Carolina) has said that she is going to walk with me! Can’t wait for that!! ;)

The world needs more places like The Hope Clinic. We also need more caring people who will give and volunteer their funds and their time to help those in need. You might often hear the pro-choice activists ask “where are you when that child is born?” Well, there are MANY people that ARE there for the women when their child is born! We DO care and we DO see them through (will you find THAT at a Planned Parenthood??). If you want to read a good example of that, please read this story.

Do you need another reason to pledge? Consider the fact that a high percentage of abortion-minded women change their minds after seeing their baby in the womb (and The Hope Clinic is one of those places that provides Ultrasound). In fact, Saundra (whose story you read in one of my updates) once told me that that would have made all the difference for her if she had gotten to see her baby. Unfortunately, there are many clinics that can’t afford the machines. That’s where organizations like Project Ultrasound come in. They donate these life-saving devices to CPCs everywhere. Please, check out their site and consider supporting this organization with your prayers (and funds) as well!

I can’t even begin to tell you how vital and life-saving your prayers and pledges are!! I am so grateful to all of you who have stepped up and pledged so far! Some have been gracious enough to put their faith into action by giving me “at least five dollars” as I have been asking for in my blogs. Some have given even more than that. Whatever the amount, it will be blessed and multiplied! God will use your tax-deductible gift to save and transform lives! How can you put a price on that?

Here are the current leader boards. As you can see, there have been some changes (the major one being that New York just beat out Indiana in pledges - just like last time). Grateful as I am for that (a BIG thank you to my EXTREMELY generous pledger in New York!!!) I think us Hoosiers STILL have a chance of beating out New York if my peeps would start pledging REALLY soon!! Additionally, I would STILL love to see the rest of the states in the nation show up! I got over half last time, but I’m really lacking this time around! Remember, you have until FRIDAY!! Please, PLEASE CONSIDER PLEDGING!! Can ya’ll pledge AT LEAST FIVE BUCKS??? Five bucks….that’s not too much to ask is it? That’s your morning coffee at Starbucks, but that five for coffee won’t compare to saving a child’s life! Send me your name, address, and pledge amount to my e-mail: melissawalksforlife@gmail.com Thank you in advance for your generosity and kindness!! God bless you all!!


Financial Pledges

1. New York
2. Indiana
3. Tennessee
4. South Carolina
5. North Carolina and Ohio
6. Texas


Prayer Pledges

1. Indiana - 11
2. South Carolina - 3
3. North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee - 1 each

17 Prayer Warriors!


Men Vs. Women

Men = 3 pledgers and 1 prayer warrior! ;)

Women = 23 pledgers and 16 prayer warriors!

THE WOMEN ARE LEADING!!


Participating States 8/50

Indiana
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Helping Others Is Always "In Style"

This past weekend has been tiring, but extremely worthwhile. As many of you know, I took part in The Salvation Army Fashion Show on Saturday (and it was a great success!). The success was a result of the love and compassion that every volunteer poured into the event; none greater than my best friend, Jama. When she puts her heart into something, she puts it ALL in! She planned and organized it all - everything from the gift baskets (which her Mom tirelessly wrapped ALL OF THEM!), the clothing, the selection of models, EVERYTHING! In my opinion, she can’t be thanked enough because no one has any idea just how much time and effort went into this event! The fact that it did as well as it did and was absolutely perfect was the result of her tireless efforts and the passion for people that God has placed within her heart! I am so blessed to know a woman such as this!!

I posted my pictures on Facebook and Myspace, but here is a link to the pictures that I have in case you haven’t seen them. They were taken by Mitch (and he did a good job considering that photography isn’t his forte lol. Thanks Mitchie Bear!). There were also photographs taken by a professional and when/if those pictures are available, I will make you aware of the link to that.

Though, as I said previously, this had precious little to do with us models, our clothes (all of which were directly from The Salvation Army stores!), or the gift baskets that were auctioned off. What the event all boiled down to was the fact that all the time and effort put into this show was to raise money for this organization; an organization that touches peoples lives. In fact, right before the show, Jama came back into our dressing area with tears in her eyes (and was trying desperately not to cry). The rest of us started tearing up as well when she told us about a woman she just talked to. She said that The Salvation Army had adopted their family for Christmas last year and she wondered if Jama remembered who she was. She did. This was a family who had been through a lot; the greatest of which was their son that was very sick. In fact, that ended up being his last Christmas. However, the woman wanted Jama to know that because of the Salvation Army, they had had a WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS! Jama reminded us that the outfits we were wearing were going to be sold in order to make lasting memories and happy moments for families like that little boy‘s. All the money raised would be going to families who might only have one last Christmas and because of those that support The Salvation Army, last Christmases are filled with joy and not barren Christmas trees and lonely forgotten people.

I don’t know the grand total raised for sure, but Jama said that all the gift baskets sold and I know that much of the clothing did as well (in fact, she said that there were some girls fighting over the vintage jacket I wore - which I should have bought myself lol). Everything went extremely well and everyone enjoyed serving in whatever role that they had. Things went smoothly and there were no trips, falls, or wardrobe malfunctions (well, during rehearsal I experienced some lol. Glad THAT was cleared up!). Plus, our master of ceremonies, Sandy Thompson, did a great job with the event! In fact, her descriptions and comments were so thorough that it gave us models plenty of time to change; especially when we REALLY needed to hurry (thanks Racheal for keeping us moving!!). It was a great time and we had a lot of fun; even in the chaos of flying clothes backstage. ;) We had several good laughs (like when Sandy Thompson said “umpire waist” instead of “empire waist” lol). I am SO GRATEFUL that I was able to be a part of it all!!

The icing on the cake is the fact that all of the money is going to help families in desperate need this Christmas. Now, more than ever, people need our love and support. Interviewing for that Christmas program will start soon, and I can only imagine the heartbreaking stories I will hear during that time. I’ll tell you what, I will look at those red Christmas kettles more fondly and favorably than ever (and I pray that you all will do the same). Spare change adds up to a LOT; and it may just buy a family some unforgettable and priceless memories that they will forever treasure!

Grace and peace to all of you!! May you all be blessed and encouraged to serve others with your gifts and talents! Be the hands and feet of Jesus and watch as hearts and lives are forever changed!! Remember, love and mercy never go out of style!! You’ll always be in fashion if you clothe yourself with Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27). Jesus isn’t a “trend”, He is the “MUST HAVE” for EVERY season!! May compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience be your garments (Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 5:5)! God bless you all!!