Friday, December 29, 2017

Evaluating 2017....

We are quickly approaching the end of 2017…. where we can say that all that has been said and done in 2017 has been said and done.

As you look back over the year, do you feel good about yourself?  What criteria do you use to measure your success?   There are several options:

Are you financially stronger than you were?

Are you stronger spiritually?

Do you feel good about the way you interacted with your family?

Are you physically healthier?

Did  you reach the goals you set for yourself at work?

Did you learn from your mistakes and rejoice in your successes?

When I look at the above questions I can answer yes to three of them, a definite no to two of them, and a maybe to a couple.   But are they really the criteria that we should be using.

In a very old song by someone you have probably never heard of, Philip Sandifer sings these words;
But when it's all been saidAnd when it's all been done He'll ask meDid you go my way childDid you know my sonAnd when it's all been saidAnd when it's all been done He'll ask meDid you find your way within my Son
The last line of the song makes me think that we should use different questions to evaluate our lives.  Maybe I should be suggesting that you ask questions like this:

When you reached financial struggles, did you find your way within Jesus?

When you came across “dark nights of the soul” when you felt God was far away, did you find your way within Jesus?

When your family life was imperfect, when you felt like a failure and couldn’t reach your spouse, or children, or parents… regardless of how hard you tried, did you find your way within Jesus?

When you had physical struggles and medical issues this year and days seemed endless and the future looked bleak, did you find your way within Jesus?

When the goals you set at work seemed unattainable and you felt like a failure, did you find your way within Jesus?

When you made mistakes and struggled to forgive yourself, did you find your way within Jesus?

When you were on the mountain top, celebrating great success, did you find your way within Jesus?

Because when it’s all been said, and it’s all been done that’s the question God is going to ask of us.   Throughout this mind-boggling, complicated, pain-filled frustrating journey called life, did you find your way within my Son?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

What will 2018 bring?

I love the new year because it signifies a fresh start, a new chance at life.  Of course, every day is the beginning of a new year, but having a calendar year provides a different kind of closure and a new kind of hope.

What is it that you want 2018 to be for you?  Have you taken time to sit down and contemplate how you want your life to change?  Do you recognize that YOU have the power to do something different.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is  by Christine Mason Miller.  She penned the words, “At any given moment, you have the power to say:  This is not how the story is going to end.”

I like to take that a step forward and include that with God’s help, there is nothing that can’t be fixed, changed, transformed, renewed.  Even the most hopeless situations are full of hope when God is in the picture.

So I’m asking you to join me today in asking the following questions:

What are the things that I need to do in 2017 to change the way it ends?

What am I going to ask God to do to and what am I going to do to make 2018 my best year ever?


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

No Darkness

Two very contrasting memories of the past few days are coming to mind this morning.  The first is the mental image of my adorable almost 8 year old granddaughter Gabby at the Christmas Eve service.  It was the first time I had been in a Christmas Eve service without at least one of my kids since our first child moved in in 1996.  All three of our adult children who live at home had to work and were attending the 11:00 service.  So Gabby and Carlos and I went to the 5:30 service together and Gabby and I dropped Carlos off in the nursery.  Below is a picture taken a couple weeks ago so you can see her bright eyes as you read about the service.

At the end of the service, right before Silent Night, we sang another song.  It was one that Gabby had been singing all month as part of the children's choir.   She held her candle and all the way through the song her bright us, shining in the candlelight, looked up at me and with the innocence and wonder only a child possesses we sang:
I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world
The star of my life is Jesus. 
In Him there is no darkness at all
the night and the day are both alike
The Lamb is the light in the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord, Jesus.
It is a memory I will never forget and tears formed in my eyes as I prayed that God would answer her prayer and that Jesus would shine brightly in her heart forever.

I contrast that memory with a book that I read yesterday called "The Execution of God."  I'm still not sure what I think about the book.  While I agree with many of the points made its unique style and unorthodox presentation of ideas was a bit jarring.   The concept of the book was that every time a person is killed because of a crime, God is being killed as well.

The book gave a glimpse of what life is like on death row.  It seemed so incredibly dark.   Over and over as I was reading the book the words to the song above came to my mind, "In Him there is no darkness at all."     I had to ask myself, "Where is God in all of this?"

It all came together for me as I thought about the song.   In Him there is no darkness.... and we, His people, are the ones who are shining His light.   If we fail to let Him shine in our hearts, if we fail to go to places of darkness, then the darkness wins.

What darkness is winning in your world today?  Are there people you know who are living in the darkness of poverty, of mental illness, of addiction?  

As we spend time this week planning for the year to come, let's ask ourselves where there are corners of darkness that need the light that is shining in us.  

Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I don't know this church or this choir, but the song is the point :-)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Get healthy with me in 2018!

I love a new year. Always have.  A calendar that is nearly empty, a fresh start, all that hope and possibility that things will be different -- that I will be different.

For the first time in my life I actually have a head start on 2018 when it comes to health and fitness.  As you have seen on Facebook, back in October I started a journey towards improving my health.  Weight loss is a bonus, but I want to be stronger.  I want to be able to help Bart more with cleaning, cooking, etc.

But when you can't stand for more than 3 minutes without pain, it's hard to do anything.

So, motivated by a fund-raiser for the amazing organization where I work, I started going to see a personal trainer.  You can read about some of the things that have changed and the food plan I'm following here.

There has been a bi-product of all of this.  I started a Facebook group of the people who are sponsoring me and they have been amazing.   They are so encouraging and so faithful in commenting on my progress or giving me advice.

As we head into 2018 I would love to have you join me.  The group is exclusive -- because they have all sponsored me -- and they would like the group to remain inclusive. But for any donation you can join the group.

And here's the cool part.  I am convinced that those people, because they are awesome.... will support you just like they have me even though they don't know you.  I am so excited about sharing my great cheerleaders with you!

So, come on.  Go here to sponsor me and I'll add you to the group.  Join us.  Post often.  Lets make 2018 the best year ever when it comes to getting healthier!

Friday, December 22, 2017


Why do we celebrate Christmas?  Why did Jesus come?  What was the point?

There were huge reasons that God came to earth as a man in the form of Jesus.  Things like changing the course of human history by providing the ultimate sacrifice and allowing us to enter into a new covenant with God.    Big, overarching, all encompassing, epic game changing miracle stuff.

But then there is the personal why.   Why did Jesus come for me???   One of my favorite songs that I share below always reminds me of the personal reasons that Jesus came, not just to the whole earth… but to me.

He came to bring peace.   Peace to the world yes, but peace to me when my life is complicated, full of stress, in a constant state of frenzy and chaos.   Peace to me.

He came to be love.   To be love when I least deserve it and when I most need it … and to show ME what love means so that I know how I am supposed to love others.   

He came to be nearer to us.   Jesus came so that God could be closer to us — close in an intimate personal way that was never possible before.

He came to breathe life…. life when death seems closest, life when our existence seems meaningless, life when our hearts and souls seem empty and dying…

He came to be light — light shining in the darkness of our lives.  But not just so that our lives would be full of light but so that He could shine in us….

He came to be hope.  I talk a lot about hope because it is what has gotten me through the past couple of very difficult decades….   Jesus came to bring hope … but to also be our hope, and not only ours but the hope of the world.  

He came to be God with us.   That is the definition of the word Emmanuel.   God with us.  Not a God, far away and distant, but the God who is here, right now, next to us, beside us, around us, and within us.

It is my prayer that as we contemplate what it means to have God come to us this Christmas, that we will all experience Him to be the one who brings peace, became love, is near to us, breathing life in us, shining light in us, and being the hope of our very beings.   

Emanuel….  God WITH us.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Definition of Receive

What does it mean to receive?

There are three definitions of this word:

be given, presented with, or paid (something):
"most businesses will receive a tax cut" · [more]
synonyms: be given · be presented with · be awarded · collect · [more]
suffer, experience, or be subject to (specified treatment):
"the event received wide press coverage" · [more]
synonyms: experience · sustain · undergo · meet with · suffer · bear
greet or welcome (a visitor) formally:
"representatives of the club will be received by the Mayor"
synonyms: greet · welcome · say hello to

Until today when I heard the words “Let earth receive her king” I was thinking about the gift idea.   Earth was to receive the king which was being given, or presented, to humanity.   This is a very passive act…. 

But what if it’s more than that?  What if we are to greet and welcome the King of Kings?  What would it look like if you knew that Jesus was coming to your house for Christmas?

I know Bart doesn’t even let normal people in the door unless the house is perfect, so we would have a lot of cleaning to do.   We would use our best dishes.  He would prepare his finest meal.

There’s an even greater responsibility, I believe, to having our lives and our hearts receive the King — not just our homes.   If we are going to give Jesus a proper reception into our lives once again this Christmas, what do we need to do?  What needs to be cleaned up?  What about us needs to be changed?

We should all be asking ourselves this question:

What will it take, this year, for me to receive my King in the best way possible?

Let’s plan his “reception” this year like we never have before.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Small Victories

If you do not know, I have begun a journey towards healthy living that is motivated by an event called Do it For the Kids Day.  On March 17th, to raise money for the organization where I work, I will be walking a 2.6 mile marathon.  Since I have not been able to stand more than 3-5 minutes in the past few years without pain, this is going to be a huge uphill challenge.
I have been incredibly blessed by 61 individuals who have chosen to support me by sponsoring me.  Their encouragement has been amazing and the accountability really works.
So here's the good news on all this stuff.   I started seven weeks ago and  I'm losing weight (you can't know now much unless you donate) and getting stronger, but here are some of the small victories:

1)  Putting on my left sock and shoe is no longer the most strenuous and difficult thing I do all day.
2)  Two months ago I woke up with back pain every single morning.   The past several days I have not had that pain in the morning..
3)  Previously, I could not take a shower and stay standing long enough to get dressed.   This past week I have been able to shower, get dressed, and make the bed without having to sit down and rest my back.

4)  The past several years I have not been able to stand long enough to make toast or pop a bog of microwave popcorn.  Last night I popped two bags.

5)   People say my gait is straighter, my speed is faster, and that I look better, but I'm not noticing that too much.
If you are interested in how I'm managing to make progress so quickly, here is my routine, as prescribed by Dave who is donating my training until the walk.  He's a great guy except when I want to punch him.   Check out his website here.
My meal plan is as follows:
Breakfast:  Lean protein and complex carb
Morning snack:  Fruit and lean protein
Lunch:  Lean protein and complex carb
Afternoon snack:  Fruit and lean protein
Dinner:  Lean Protein and vegetable
One meal a week can be a "cheat meal" and one snack can be a cheat snack"
I can tell you that in every single way this meal plan works.  I'm never hungry.  I don't lack energy.  I'm losing weight.   It's a bit of a hassle to remember to pack snacks, but I'm starting to get into the routine.
My workout plan is as follows:
Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle

Tuesday - Cardio -- walking... still not much but more than before (can now go .25 miles without stopping because of pain).
Wednesday:  Day off
Thursday:  Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle

Friday:  Cardio -- walking...
Saturday:  Thursday:  Monday -- Warehouse training -- weights and stretching, building core muscle
Sunday -- day off.

Dave prescribes a daily nap and an hour a day to do something you enjoy. I don't often get the nap in, but I try to on weekends!
So -- there you have it in case you were wondering.  
If you haven't sponsored me yet or would like to you can go to this website.  Here you can see all those who have sponsored me and read updates about the programs we are raising money for as well as my progress.  There are even pictures of me.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joyful and Triumphant

Over the next 10 days you will most likely here these words many many times:

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels….

This year I’m choosing to focus on two words when I sing that song and I encourage you to do the same.

I want to focus on being joyful and to remember that the petty things on earth that rob us of our joy are nothing compared to the Joy we can find in Christ.   When we focus on Him and wait patiently for Him, joy WILL find us.

And secondly, I want to focus on the word triumphant.  I confess that this fall there have many days when I have wondered whether or not the enemy is getting ahead.  But regardless of how much I wonder or how I feel, the truth is, he is not and he never will be.  I can be triumphant!   And as I approach the figurative manger to adore the King of Angels, I can do so with a spirit of triumph because the victory is mine.

So come, faithful ones.

Come joyfully.

Come triumphantly.

The King of the Angels is waiting for you to adore Him.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Grounds for Believing

On what grounds do you place your faith?   Have they changed as you've grown older?

When I was a child, my grounds for believing in Jesus were basically because my parents said so.  I grew up, as you may know, with wonderful parents and I completely trusted them -- so when they said that Jesus loved me, I KNEW He did.

As I grew older, though, I had new experiences to add to that foundation.   When I saw him meet the needs of my family members as a teenager, it began to make more sense.  When I went to camps and retreats and watched lives being changed, I believed even more intensely and with a more mature faith.   As a young adult I had many experience that taught me that God was more than just the God of my parents but my God as well.  (Have I ever told you the story of a college football player who got drafted for the specific team I prayed he would?  That was COOL).

During my years in Mexico I saw how God transcended the barriers of language, culture, and socio-economic status and my view of who God was expanded.  Finally, when we began our foster and adoption journey, where a deep faith and conviction that God could carry us through was the only thing we had to hang on to, my faith was redefined.

When listening to the gospel of John (chapter 11) these words jumped out to me as found in the message.  Jesus was telling his disciples that Lazarus had died and that He was going to raise him from the dead.  He said...

You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.

The miracle that Jesus did in raising Lazarus from the dead was another stepping stone in the building of the faith that the disciples had in Jesus.   This was something new for them -- and had much more power than a piece of history that was told and retold to us as our faith was developing.   It obviously would have a huge impact on their faith.

We aren't asking Jesus to bring someone to life.... but hasn't he been able to bring to life multiple things in our lives over the years that have given us "new grounds for believing?"   Is your history, like mine, full of times where you thought things were dead... you had given up .... but Jesus came and breathed new life?  Relationships?  Dreams? Plans?  Visions?   Dead in the water until Jesus showed up?

You may be facing one of those today.   You may be almost out of hope that anything will ever change in that situation.   But you have been given new grounds for believing over and over again in your journey.   Look back at those and remember that nothing is to difficult for God and that even when something is completely dead, Jesus has conquered death -- not just physical death -- but the death of relationships, plans and dreams.

If you look back, you will see times when God gave you new grounds for believing.  So as you look ahead, pay attention to the situations in which He offers you even more opportunities to build your faith.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Ultimate Game Changer

Have you ever had a brilliant idea and then realized that your brilliant idea was one that you have had before and that you have already blogged about it?   If not, you either aren't a blogger, you aren't as old as me, or you don't have brilliant ideas :-)

I was listening to the radio last night and heard a song and though to myself, "Wow, Christmas was a game changer.  Because of Jesus' birth people can live forever!"  I know, not a novel thought, but it stuck me in a new way.   But this morning when I was looking for a quote I realized that last year I had a blog entry called the same thing.... and it was about Christmas.   Brilliant idea, already had it, already blogged it, been there, done that.  But it's worth repeating.

I'm not a grinch in the truest sense of the word, but I am not one of those people who love Christmas... at least not the parts of it that are commercialized and trivialized and become annoying.   I'm sort of like a post-revelation grinch.... because he said after he saw that without all of the commercialization, Christmas still came.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? 
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. 
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 
The song that inspired this brilliant concept this year has a chorus that ends "And man shall live forever more, because of Christmas Day.  Think about it.  It is THE ultimate game changer.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Where's Your Tent?

I gotta tell you, we have had a tough fall at the Fletchers.   So many things have happened that are not tragic, and one of them would not have thrown us off.  But the culmination of a whole bunch of things in a row has us feeling pretty discouraged some days.   We have to rally ourselves again and again to stay positive and trust God.

While listening to the book of Acts, Chapter 2,  in the Message I heard these words:
I saw God before me for all time.    Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;    I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I realized at that point that that is the answer as to “how do you do it?”   People have asked me that question in multiple situations over the years as our number of children and their number of challenges have grown.   The answer is this:

I look for God and see that he is before me for all time.  He is what I see ahead and I know that He can handle anything I'm facing.    And I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope... and it's staying there, regardless of what kind of darts the enemy may throw may.  

When things get dark or dreary at home, work or church, and I start to ask God all kinds of questions about the here and now I remind myself of these things.  That he is before me and that there is always hope.   The hope that never disappoints…. the hope that is found in Christ.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Do you hear them?

Christmas can be a great time, but Christmas can always be a sad time.   Holidays are super hard for people who are missing a loved one or whose families are not getting along.    Society has created expectations for the "perfect Christmas" that nobody can achieve, no matter how hard we try.  So today I want to ask you, "What do you hear when you hear Christmas bells?"

Do you hear the joyous sounds of expectation for the celebration of a newborn king?   Or do you hear the pain of regret, the music of sadness and grief?

You may know that the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" was originally a poem written by Longfellow on Christmas Day 1864.    What you might not know is that  it was written from the experiences of his life at that time involving the tragic death of his wife and the crippling injury of his son Charles.

When listening to this song the other day, I realized that this is the true beauty of Christmas.... that God's son entered this world as a baby to meet us where we are.  At the very heart of Christmas is a God who saw humanity and wanted to get close to us.  God wanted to become man so that he would know what it was like to be us.... not just when we were experiencing the peaks of joy -- but also when we were in our deepest valleys.

Emanuel.  God with us -- not just on the days when we are excited about life and feeling on top of the world -- but God with us ALL of the time.

So wherever you are, let these words speak to you as a reminder of what Christmas is all about -- that God is not dead or asleep but instead is with us, ensuring that the wrong will fail and that right will prevail and that the end result will always be peace on earth and goodwill to man.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day​
Their old familiar carols play,​
And wild and sweet​
The words repeat​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

And thought how, as the day had come,​
The belfries of all Christendom​
Had rolled along​
The unbroken song​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Till, ringing, singing on its way,​
The world revolved from night to day,​
A voice, a chime​
A chant sublime​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Then from each black accursed mouth​
The cannon thundered in the South,​
And with the sound​
The carols drowned​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

It was as if an earthquake rent​
The hearth-stones of a continent,​
And made forlorn​
The households born​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!​

And in despair I bowed my head;​
"There is no peace on earth," I said;​
"For hate is strong,​
And mocks the song​
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"​

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ​
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!​
The Wrong shall fail,​
The Right prevail,​
With peace on earth, good-will to men!​

Monday, December 04, 2017

What needs to be torn up?

Are you ready for Christmas?  The Christmas season is upon us whether we are ready or not and whether or not we fully appreciate the season.  

But as my husband who loves the church calendar will tell you, this is not Christmas … this is advent — a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus.  

Yesterday morning he preached from this passage from Isaiah 64:

“If only You would tear open the heavens and come down! “

He mentioned that sometimes God has to tear open some things in our own lives before we are ready for what God has for us during advent.

I invite you to join with me as we ask God to open the heavens and tear whatever needs torn open so that He can truly enter our hearts this Christmas.