Tuesday, February 28, 2017

You Want Me to Do WHAT????

Have you ever had a time when you felt like God, or your pastor, or your boss, was asking you to do something and you were all like, "WHAAAAAAT?"

Well, I can just hear Joshua thinking that when God told him this in Joshua 6:

“See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

First of all, he starts by saying, "Look, I have already done it --  I've already delivered them."  And Joshua I'm sure was thinking, "Ummmmm, nope.  Don't see it.  Looking at a walled city with the gates securely barred.  And God, you may not have noticed, but we are on the OUTSIDE of the city.  Outside the big walls,   Outside the securely barred gates."

After that I'm sure once he heard the instructions he was thinking, "You seriously expect me to go tell all those macho dudes in the army  that they are going to walk around the city seven days in a row and do nothing but march.    And I'm going to get priests to carry trumpets around for six days without blowing them?   You do know that the people of Jericho are going to taunt us and make fun of us, right?  And finally, that last day, you know they are going to tell me I’m crazy if I ask them to make fools of themselves after being mocked all week by being asked to blow trumpets and shout.  Last time I checked, blowing trumpets and shouting did not bring walls down."

But even though he was probably thinking those things, He didn't say them.  He just called the priests together and gave them their instructions.  He called the men of the army together and gave them their instructions.  And you gotta know they did not march around that wall without grumbling and murmuring -- after all the grumbled and murmured their way through half of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, so they were definitely grumblers.   But they did it, they marched, they carried the trumpets, they obeyed the instructions.

And we know the rest of the story -- the wall came down and they conquered the city.

Today I want you to think about the walls in your life, those things that are stopping you from being the person you want them to be.   What is God asking you to do in order to make the walls go down? is He speaking through someone else to get your attention or are you like Joshua in the story and God is asking you to bring people together to knock down walls.

Or maybe you aren’t facing personal walls but you can see walls in our society.  Maybe they are walls of injustice.  Maybe they are walls of hatred.  Are they walls of indifference?  Walls between you and someone you need to be reconciled with?  There are walls all around us.

But one of the most awesome things about serving a great God is that He has already delivered us.  Seeing things the way God sees them means that the walls are already down.  We just need to find out from Him what His plan is for delivering what is inside to us.

If we do our part, even if we don't understand the methodology, the walls--- they'll fall down.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Throw It Down

My husband often has powerful sermons.   Not every single Sunday, but often.   If you didn't make it to church at Mt. Vernon yesterday, then you picked the wrong service to miss.   The sermon, especially because it was combined with a very gifted musician in our church (Joe Northen) singing Ken Medema's song Moses ... was incredible.

You know the story of Moses.  He didn't think he was capable of much.  In fact, he tried to tell God no -- to tell him that he couldn't "talk so good."  He tried to point him to his brother Aaron saying "He can single like an angel, talk like a preacher!"  Moses kept saying, "not me Lord."

Finally Moses tells God that the people won't believe that God has sent him.  So God tells Moses to throw his rod on the ground.  When he does it turns into a snake. Then he tells him to pick up the snake by the tail.   Moses says, among other things, "Everybody knows you shouldn't pick up a hissing snake by the tail!"

But when he does, the rod is different   The rod is now the rod of God.  And with God's rod, Moses was able to do do amazing things -- like strike a rock and have water come out and part the red sea.

Bart in yesterdays sermon asked, "What is it that you need to throw down in order to pick up the rod of God?"

And the song ends, "
What do you hold in your hand today?To whom, or to what, are you bound?Are you willing to give it to God right now?Give it up.  Let it go.  Throw it down.
I recognize that with the rod of God in my hand there is nothing that can stop me when attempting to do God's work.  I want to be used by God to do amazing things, but I can only do that with his rod in my hand.

So I've been asking myself, "What is it that I am holding on to so tightly?  What am I unwilling to give up and let go in order to pick up the rod of God?"

I want to find out what that is because more than anything I want to throw it down.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Second Saturday Summary

It's the weekend and I must say that it is not a bad thing to wake up and find it's a high of 70 again when Facebook has the whining posts of Minnesota's buried in snow.

It has been quite the week!  I must confess that I am not feeling a bit out of sorts this morning.... nothing major and actually nothing related to my children (they are typically the source of my out-of-sortsness).  I love my job at work, but it is hard to find a balance of how relational to be when you're a Chief Officer.   I usually err on one side or another so it's challenging.

So, last week my mom had her Pacemaker put in.  She thought she was coming home from the hospital Monday, but got to come home Saturday.  As you know from reading my blog this week, she called to tell me my brother had gotten married -- and I have talked to him a few times this week -- and texted my new 27 year old sister-in-law which is still a strange concept.  I also found out this week that a very dear friend died, and that a couple of my other friends may have breast cancer.  In addition, two of my favorite students when I was Dean who later married each other, have a little boy who is very very sick so my heart has been heavy for him.

Highlights of the week, though, were having lunch with Bob and Judy Black last Saturday in Charlotte which was awesome.  We picked up Rand at the airport on Monday and he has been here all week.  He's always fun to have around.  Yesterday Bart and I took a road trip to attend orthopedic appointments, and then had lunch one of my coworkers and his wife.   We headed then, to Walton's mountain, where we found a very small, very closed museum.  I was SURE the website said they were open every day, but we were a week off.  They open March 4.

Last night we got pictures saying Sadie and Matt got a puppy.

Today we are taking the whole clan to see "A Dog's Purpose."  That should be enjoyable although we aren't sure how Carlos will do ate age 2.  But his mom will have to worry about that :-)

I'm ending month two as a bullet journalist and for the first day since I started the journey, I am not feeling motivated.  I'm sure once I get started I'll be fine.

This was one boring blog entry.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gratitude and Cortisol WHAT???

What are you talking about Claudia?  What in the world do those two things have to do with each other.

Well, I thought you'd never ask.

You might be saying, "What IS Cortisol?"  According to WikiHow
Cortisol is a stress-induced chemical that is released by the adrenal gland. While some cortisol is beneficial for survival, some people overproduce cortisol. When this happens, you may notice you feel anxious, stressed out and have a tendency to gain weight. It is imperative to take action, once you notice any or all of these symptoms. Reducing the amount of cortisol produced within your body can have a positive effect on your overall health and leave you feeling more relaxed and balanced.

So, in other words, when you are in a stage of fight, flight or fight, you feel the cortisol rushing into your system to "pump you up" and get you ready for the upcoming dangerous situation.   The problem is that it can become addictive.

I've seen it happen in some of my children who have histories of trauma.  They experienced it so much before coming to live with us that they have gotten addicted to that rush and then then they work themselves up to get it.  Raging and running away are two ways to retain a cortisol high.  A less devastating way is extreme sports.  

For those of us who are "emotionally healthy", whatever that means,  can gradually become addicted to cortisol as well.   Our secondary trauma, the number of times that we are emotionally prodded and poked, and the times that we allow ourselves to get dysregulated, lead us to a lot of cortisol pulsating through our brains and bodies.  If we aren't careful we can start to use that "nervous energy" to propel us and become workaholics or exercise more than necessary or eat too much.... the implications are crazy.  It's like being stuck on an emotionally driven high that we can't stop.

So, what does gratitude have to do with it?  It has actually been proven that the feelings that are produced when we are grateful can have a magical effect.  They can reduce heart rate and reduce cortisol levels.

Cortisol isn't good for us.  While it is necessary in extreme situations (life and death for example), pulling large amounts of it into our systems for long periods of time can shorten our life span and make us susceptible to all kinds of physical problems.  (As the graphic above indicates)

One of the keys to regulating cortisol in us and in other people, is to recognize the symptoms.  I know for me it's cold appendages, increased heart rate, and nausea.   When I am under stress and experiencing anxiety and cortisol starts pumping my body responds.  But I have learned that when I feel those things I can go to a spot of gratitude in my mind and it helps me to regulate.

So, I am now instituting #ThankfulThursday.   Every Thursday we are going to list things we are thankful for so that we can remember them and dwell on them when we have an influx of cortisol.

Sounds simplistic, but if you can focus on things you are grateful for for a few minutes, you will feel yourself regulate and can be back to whatever your "normal" within 15- 20 minutes.

Try it.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What if Love and Belonging Are the Most Important of All?

Remember Maslow?  He said that we have needs and they show up in a certain order.  At the very base of what we need is food, water, etc.  Then we move into safety and we need to have that before we can feel love and belonging.   If we are fortunate to have all of these things we can move to self-esteem and them self-actualization.

Now I don't want to get to technical here, or even get into great detail, but some behavioral scientists are now suggesting that there are several instances in life where people will trade meeting their physiological needs and their need for safety in order to have love and belonging.

Think about kids living on the streets who form a group.   They may have the opportunity to leave that streets in order to have a safe place to live and food to eat, but they will stay with their friends.

Why is this important?   I think it has many implications.  As parents in any setting, it shows that the mount of money we spend on our children matters way less to them (even if they don't realize it) than how much time we spend with them and how much they feel they belong.

It certainly applies in the orphan care movement -- that if love and belonging is what human being needs more than anything, that caring for these orphans in a family like setting is more important than making sure they have shoes to wear.  

I think it also has implications for the church and society as well.  I love how 1 Peter 2:10 reads in the NRSV:
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people.
Being God's people and belonging in God's family is so powerful.   And since God says that ALL people are HIS people, everyone belongs.  Just like Lilo said to Stitch when he was running away:
"Ohana" means "family."  "Family" means "no one gets left behind."  
What does that mean for you and me?  That need to be about the task of figuring out ways to instill that sense of belonging in the people we know.  Many people from hard places do not even know what love is, so trying to focus on that might not be as significant as making sure that people know that they belong.

What can you do today to make sure that the people in your life know that they belong -- whether it is in your family or in God's family.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Roller Coaster of Emotion

I found out yesterday afternoon that one of the best men I've ever known passed away.

He was fourth grade teacher to John, and then to Jimmy, and then to Jimmy again, and then to Tony and then to Ricardo.   He went on to become a principal.  He and his wife were Ricardo's sponsors at his baptism.  

While we lived in Luverne the lives of our families were intertwined.  His wife and children knew us ... we lived in community together.   As recently as this past summer, we saw his youngest son, now an adult, college graduated, insurance agent, while we were having dinner.

So my life has been crazy the past few days.

My mom + hospital = fear and anxiety for me, even if not for her.

My brother + new 27 year old African bride (yes, I found out today that she is 27 and my brother is older than her father) = shock, happiness, surprise

My dear, dear friend dead suddenly at 52 = shock, grief, anger, frustration, bewilderment, sad to the core

Lots of thoughts running through my head, lots of emotions running through my heart, but one thing always steady always stable.

I can honestly say, regardless of the ups and downs

God’s Faithfulness = It Is Well with my soul…

Monday, February 20, 2017

There's only Grace

A couple things happened in my family this past weekend.   Not in my family as in my kids and husband, but as in my extended family.

First my mom had a pacemaker put in and that was crazy.    She pent the night in the hospital for the first time since 1966 when she gave birth to my youngest brother.  In all of her near 88 years she had only been in the hospital three times — to give birth to three children.    She was all full of joy telling me about her adventure and how wonderful the people were and how great the hospital was.  I want to be more like her.  

And then last night, she told me this:

My brother, who will be 52 in a month, and suffered two severe strokes this past year, hopped on a plane for a 48 hour trip (including layovers and flight times) to go to Madagascar and marry the African niece of his nurse.   

Yeah, you might want to read it again.  A lot to digest!

Woah!  SO, this 30 something eager to have children gorgeous girl is now my sister-in-law and my brother, a life-time bachelor, might actually make me an aunt after all.

There reason I’m sharing this with you is because I am so grateful for my parents and the atmosphere of grace in which we have always lived.  I’m pretty sure that not being invited to (much less told about) the wedding of an African woman twenty year’s someone’s junior, would cause the family some stress.

Not mine.  My mom would say she is “tickled” and “thrilled.”   She is excited to start corresponding with her and can’t believe the good fortune.  Another grandchild would be an amazing gift — enthicity and race don’t matter not at all, which is pretty unique for someone of her generation.   She has been praying or my wayward brother for decades, and this girl is a CHRISTIAN.   An answer to her prayer.

I’m excited for him too.  Despite his struggles with alcoholism, I’ve always loved my brother Nate.  He has personality and charm and a sense of humor that, even after two strokes, is still spot on and he cracks me up all the time.

 want to offer grace and forgiveness as the norm.  I want to think of others before myself.

What would it look like at your job if you always extended that kind of grace to everyone?  What if our first thought was grace in our personal lives … to family members, neighbors, friends.

I’ve gotten used to it over the years, but this weekend I was reminded that when it comes to other people…. we need to live a life where we can say to everyone around us, “There’s only grace.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Summary Saturday

So, this year I have started a few new habits to give my life rhythm.  In case you are unfamiliar with how my life is right now, let me give you a glimpse:

I have two homes, three offices, four desks, and two vehicles that I am utilizing every week.   For the first 8 months of my job, my schedule changed every week.  From one week to the next I was in various places and nothing was consistent.

So late last fall I determined that I was going to have a set weekly schedule.  So, it goes like this:

  • Monday morning I leave the parsonage in Danville where Bart and the kids live for Brookneal (about 60 miles)
  • I spend the night in Brookneal.
  • Tuesday morning I drive to Lynchburg (36 miles, but takes almost an hour because the roads are ... well, you'd have to drive them to get it).
  • I have back to back meetings all day in Lynchburg.
  • Tuesday night I drive back to Brookneal.
  • Wednesday I have meetings in Brookneal and then in the afternoon I leave for Danville in time for Wednesday night supper and Women's Bible Study at church.
  • Thursdays I spend in Danville, catching up on email, paperwork, and other projects (and as those of you who work a day from home each week, usually get more done that day that any other.  Since our daughter's schedule changed and she has Thursdays off, Bart and I have been trying to take Thursdays to have a date night.
  • Fridays I have meetings in either Lynchburg, Brookneal, or another site where I'm networking or meeting with people outside the organization.   I try to take one Friday a month off to do a day trip with Bart (because he has Friday's off).
  • Saturdays are family days and time for me to catch up on personal projects.   Today Bart and I are going to meet our favorite college professor and his awesome wife for lunch a couple hours from here (it's half way for both of us).  It's on our bucket list.  :-)
  • Sundays are kind of a marathon as we head for church around 7:45 and don't usually get home til almost one.  I have started cooking Sunday dinner so we eat at home and then until it's time to babysit Bart and I occasionally try and take a drive or go to a library, but sometimes we just sit and do absolutely nothing but read, watch TV and simply relax.  

I know, I know, you don't care about all that, but this is my blog :-)   Remember, I blogged before blogging was cool, so I can put whatever I want here.  If you want to click off it, it's your choice :-)  And I wrote it to make a point.

Since I started having a pattern and intentional rhythm to my life, I have found myself a lot less stressed.   I feel way more in control of things too.

Starting to bullet journal has added a whole new dimension to intentional living and I'm loving it.  So part of what I've done is to use some alliteration to develop some themes for people at work.

Marketing Mondays are a constant reminder to my staff that we need to schedule time to do client marketing.

Too-Busy Tuesday means that I'm in meetings all day and too busy to make them do anything.

Deep Work Wednesday came about after I read the book "Deep Work."   I encourage folks to take 45 minutes completely free of distraction to think about something in particular and make some plans.  It has really helped me to intentionally grab time to focus at least weekly on some of the issues.

Thursdays are up for grabs but SPOILER ALERT -- I'm thinking of taking the advice of a coworker (Thanks Danika) and calling it Thankful Thursday.

Friday is #FinishWellFriday where I encourage myself and my team to pick three things they don't want hanging over their head and then get them done.   I think it's starting to catch on with others, but I know it's really helped me.  I love coming into the weekend with my worst "to-dos" done.

So, all that to say that today I decided that I would use my Saturday blogs to do a summary for myself and you if you are interested of the past week.  

Here are some highlights of my week:

  1. I had some good meetings this week and remain super excited about the way that my team is growing at work.   It is not only growing by bringing in new, awesome employees, but each of the members of the team that have been around for a while are continuing to grow and become sharper and smarter, going deeper and getting better.  I love being part of this!
  2. Bart and I got to spend some extra time together this week, including dinner out and the movie "Lion" which of course, we found meaningful.    We also had dinner alone last night as well and get to spend the day together today.  He really is my favorite person and I love making time to hang out with him.
  3. I had arguments/discussions with Tony and Dominyk this week that seriously made me want to bang my head against the wall until it bled.  Talking to them gets me nowhere and I'm not sure why I continue to engage.
  4. Carlos gave me several unsolicited hugs this week, which warms my heart.  He's such a unique little boy with a charming personality.  Gabby was delightful as always.
  5. I found out that I have a friend going through some serious health issues, and my mom had a pacemaker put in unexpectedly yesterday.   My mom is fine and in great spirits.
  6. I continue to find new ways to make my bullet journal meaningful and to live more intentionally.   Some examples include Bart and I cooking around the world by choosing recipes from different countries; being more motivated to read books and articles; intentionally choosing movies and TV shows, and doing more to help Bart around the house.
  7. We have regular contact with our kids -- Christy is great to snap chat pictures all the time of those three grandkids, and we talk with Courtney at least weekly.   Sadie texts almost every day, as does Jimmy.  We hear from Leon and Rand frequently as well.   
So, there's my summary.  Probably only here for me to read in the future, but in case you were wondering, there you have it!

And now I can cross of my list that I blogged today in my bullet journal!!!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Are you in Control?

I have spent most of my life in a control battle with God, which seems ridiculous when you think about it.  Maybe it's the human condition, or maybe it's my personality, but I like to be in control.  I like to think that I am in charge not only of my life but the lives of other people around me.  The truth of the matter is that I'm not, and the more days when I realize this, the better off I am.

I heard this song for the first time the other day and I it sums up this struggle more powerfully than I ever could.

Here are the words... and the song by Natalie Grant.

"King Of The World"

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely inbetween the lines
I try to put you in the box that I've designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I'm strong enough
When you're the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world

Ohhhh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to be
And you're holding on to me

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget you've always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Is the Devil really in the details?

If you know me at all you know that there has never been a detail I liked.   I love thinking big picture and my mind just doesn't work to break things down.   I have grown to love and respect people who can do this and I desperately need them.

As I was reading through Exodus and Leviticus, I realized that the old saying, "The Devil is in the Details" can't be true because God is all about the details.

Here's proof.  The Ephod was kind of like  robe that went over the priests garments.  It looked something like this:

Here's what God told the people to do in Exodus 28:

“Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of skilled hands. It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. Its skillfully woven waistband is to be like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen.“Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel 10 in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. 11 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings 12 and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. 13 Make gold filigree settings 14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings.
See what I'm talking about?  Those are a lot of details. 
When I came to my current job I had a coworker who was always pointing out the huge differences between "detail people" and "visionaries."  I started to divide people that way, and I totally landed in the visionary category.  
But like in so many things, God is not an either or kind of God, but a both-and God.  He is in the details, but he is also a big picture visionary God.   If you look at the huge ocean, there is in that a small, perfect shell.   The massive forests hold tiny flowers.   He created this whole huge world and thought of things like butterflies and crocuses and hamsters.  He made the human body where all kind of tiny pieces make up a functioning hole.
My paradigm is shifting as I recognize my need to pay attention to the details more than I ever have before.  It's a challenge for me, but I'm working on it every day.    Because in missing the details, I am missing a lot of God’s glory. 
So next time you find yourself frustrated with those of us who get so excited about the big picture that we forget the details, be patient.  And for those of you who are big picture thinkers, remember to appreciate and love those people who rescue us every day by catching things that we don't see.

Since we are formed in God's image, maybe as we mature we can all have little pieces of both. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

It's About Time!

Do you ever feel like you have worked really hard on something and you just aren't seeing results?  Do you think to yourself, "I've done my part, why doesn't it work out the way I have it planned?"

I have been motivated lately by the verses in Psalm 1 that say (Common English Bible Translation),

(Happy are those who) love the Lord’s Instruction,
    and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!
They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
    which bears fruit at just the right time
    and whose leaves don’t fade.
        Whatever they do succeeds.

There are two parts of this Psalm that keep mulling around in my head.  The first is the word replanted.    Our family certainly knows what it means to be replanted -- our roots were down deep into the metaphorical soil of Minnesota territory.  Children, grandchildren, friends, family.  And yet God has replanted us here and we can see His hand in that every day.

The second are the words "at just the right time."  As you know, we have been sewing into the lives of our children now for over 20 years.  WE WANT RESULTS.   Some of them we can see great improvement in their lives.  Others, we hurt for them because they seem to make so little progress.  But the truth is that the fruit we will bear will be at just the right time.

As I was making movie for Bart yesterday for Valentine's Day, I was in tears with the idea that we could have missed the joys that are in here if we had given up.  If we had said, "THAT'S IT.  WE ARE DONE, we would have missed it.   the video was done quickly, on my phone, and doesn't have all of our kids in it, but it is certainly a small reputation of the life that God has given us because we did not throw in the towel because we weren't seeing results.

So, I encourage you that if you are in the middle of the sewing of the seed,  or the planting, or the watering, or any of the other icky gardening responsibilities one has when growing a tree, that there will be fruit.

at just the right time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


As a parent have you ever wanted to remind your children that not only do you live in the house that they are destroying with their disregard, dirty dishes, dirty clothes, etc.,  but you also pay the bills.  Having adult children who don't care much about these things is annoying at best.

I have tried to stay out of politics as much as possible, but when I read this passage I couldn't help but think about the countries of the world, in general, and the way that I, you, we are treating the land in which we live.

It may be that God has similar feelings when he looks around that I do when I look around my house.  It appears so...

Numbers 35:33 reads like this in the Message:

"Don’t desecrate the land in which you live.  I live here too — I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel.”

It's pretty simple.  We aren’t supposed to desecrate the land in which we live because God lives here too.

The word desecrate is a pretty strong word, but I think there are occasions where it’s appropriate as we look across our world.   And as we look at our own lives, are there times when we choose to treat where we live with less respect than we should?

What would our lives look like if we really believed this verse was true — that God lived in our neighborhood?  What if we believed that God lived here too?   I think that’s worth asking.  After all, the word Emanuel means God with us.   




Right here, right now, right where we are.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What's your ministry?

Yesterday in Sunday School we watched a video about reconciliation.  When it was over I asked the teacher if we could unwatch it.  Why?  Because I didn’t like what the preacher said and I don’t like what the Bible says.

Second Corinthians Chapter 5 says;

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation

Andy Stanley who was the preacher dared to say that we are allowed to give up on a relationship with someone else and stop reconciling with them when God gives up on us.   He basically said that the ball is always in our court, and that we need to continue to keep reaching out to offer an opportunity to heal damaged relationships.

I am not sure how this applies to you, but I know there are some kids I need to change my attitude toward.  Because God reconciled Himself to us IN SPITE OF everything we had done, have done, will done.  So the behavior of another person isn’t a good enough reason.

I’m sharing this with you because even though I don’t like it, and you probably don’t either, it’s what the Bible says.  He reconciled us, now WE have the ministry of reconciliation — whether it is in a family relationship, at work, or a racial or national divide… we have been entrusted by God with this ministry.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Grace Leads to Grace, except when it doesn't

I am having a crappy morning.  I'm home (I work from Danville on Thursdays) and the times that I feel the crappiest are when I don't extend grace.   Here's why.

Remember Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant?  He owes his master a LOT of money.  I mean the equivalent of millions of dollars.   His master calls him in to talk to him, and he begs his master for time.  The master doesn’t give him time to pay him back — he actually forgives the debt!   Unheard of.  Impossible.  Crazy.  But yes, he forgives it all.

Upon leaving that conversation, the Bible says that the guy went out and found a lowly fellow servant who owed him a few bucks.   The fellow servant did the same thing and begged for time to pay him back, but he said no and had him thrown into prison.  The end of the story is that the master finds out, and suddenly the first servant finds himself in deep deep trouble (delivered to the tormenters) until he could pay the millions back in full.

That story is you and me often.   We have been given an incredible, unheard of, impossible, crazy amount of grace by God.  He has forgiven us for everything we ever did.  But how often do we walk away from that forgiveness and run into someone who has done something to wrong us — something so small in comparison to what God has forgiven us for that it isn’t even funny.   And we can’t extend that grace.

Bart and I have been given multiple opportunities to learn how to give grace.   We have been hurt and hurt again and again by our children, and often we screw up and forget that God says 70 times 7… in other words, forgive…. everything …. forever.

So this morning I’m mad at myself.  In recognizing my own lack of grace and forgiveness of others, I am ashamed.   But the beauty of it all is that God has enough grace for that too.

Remember, grace leads to grace.  Keep in mind all you have been forgiven for as you deal with the people in your life who you need to extend grace to.  And when you can’t, remember, God’s grace is there for you too.

Ever heard this song?  I can’t remember if I’d shared it with you before but it’s pretty powerful and not your “typical Christian song."

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

What do You See First?

You all know the story about Moses.   It's time to scout out the land and Moses sends 12 spies to go check it out.

Twelve people went into the land.  Ten of them came back and said, "OH NO!   There are big huge giants there.  We can't beat them.   We better stay here where it's safe."

Two dudes, Joshua and Caleb, came back and said, "Woah, that place is cool!  It is totally what God said -- a land flowing with milk and honey.  And oh yeah, there's giants, but with God's help we can totally take them."  (My loose paraphrase).

So, my question to you today is when you look into the future what do you see first?  Do you see the opportunities God has there for you?  Or do you just see the big old mean giants?

It's ok if you see the giants first... some people are like that.  But when you see them, do you say "Run away!!!!!!!" or do you say, "We can totally take them?"

Just a thought.

How do you see it?

If you were following my blog a year ago, you know that at this point a year ago I was wondering if I was in over my head.   I came into a system that I knew within days was dysfunctional and was surrounded by anxiety and fear.  The way people were treating each other and the lack of trust was palpable.   I can't even count the number of times I thought to myself, "I'm not sure this can be fixed."

Friday morning I was coming home from a meeting with the four of the five "ministry leads" for the organization.  Two of them were people that I have hired in the last 8 months and all four of them are awesome.  We had a great meeting discussing the progress we are making and planning for the future.  Everyone was engaged, there was a spirit of trust and teamwork in the room, and there was a great deal of trust.   I sensed no anxiety or fear anywhere.

Then yesterday, the Assistant Director of our Boys and Girls Home had his first day.   God has brought him to us all the way from Texas, and he is going to be an excellent addition to the team.  We had invited the whole staff to come have lunch to greet him and there were so many people there!  The spirit in the room was one of joy and laughter.  He reported that his first meetings yesterday were great meetings -- everyone has a voice, he reported.   I contrasted that to my first meeting which was so very different than that.

On my way from home Friday I heard the song "mended" by Matthew West (below).   Every time I have heard the song in the past I had thought of individual people and how when we have decided that either we or another person are "broken beyond repair" that God sees them as mended.

I confess to being brought to tears by the song when I realized that the song not only is about people, it is about situations, it is about organizations, agencies, families, relationships... anything that is broken.  

A year ago (and I'm making myself cry again) I travelled across the country believing that I was obeying God.  I left my friends, a job I loved and the people in it, my grandchildren and most of my children, and a church that I was very involved in.  I had my husband and two children who had moved with me to this unknown place.   And when I got here, all I saw was broken, too far gone, damaged goods, a wounded place.  I wondered what God was thinking and if maybe I hadn't been obeying Him and following my own desires.  Those were such difficult days.

But the beauty of it all is that God didn't see things the way I did.  Way back then, in those first few weeks of 2016, he saw last Friday.   He saw yesterday's lunch.  He saw things as they would become.

So let me remind you today, if you are looking at something in your life that seems like it may never turn around, God isn't seeing it as it is today.   He is seeing it at some point in the future when it is what He knows it can be ..... Mended.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Get out of the way!

I tend to think I'm pretty brilliant.   In case you didn't know that about me.   I often amaze myself with my creative mind.... until I don't, but that's another story.  For the point of this blog post, I am brilliant.

In fact, sometimes I'm more brilliant than God.  He has a plan, He shares it with me, and then I for some reason feel compelled to take it one step further.  Because in my humanness, I convince myself that if I add just a little bit more to God's instructions, I can perfect them.

Unfortunately, it seldom works well.   In fact, we have an example in scripture, in Numbers chapter 20.   There was no water and the people were complaining (again) in the desert.   Go told Moses to assemble the community and speak to the rock, and water would come out.

But Moses didn't think that was enough.  He had to hit the rock too.   Maybe it was just that simple act of disobedience, or possibly it was because he got so angry, but God was not pleased.  In fact, it costs Moses the opportunity to see the Promised Land.

So, when this all shakes down, I realize that I'm not brilliant.  In fact, I'm a mess.   A wrecking ball .... messing up everything God has planned.

Maybe this has happened to you.  You feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to say something to someone, so you go and say that, and then you have to add a whole bunch more commentary that takes away the power of God's word.  Or maybe God has asked you to accomplish a small task that seems insignificant so you add a bunch of stuff to it.

I think that when I do that it must be called what it is -- a lack of faith on my part to believe that God can do anything He wants to without my help.

Join me in praying today that we can force ourselves to step out of God's way whenever possible so He can accomplish what he has planned.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

My Definition of Fulfillment

Twelve years ago I heard about this thing called a Web Log, or a Blog.  It was the newest thing on the internet.   It was an online place to record your thoughts that everyone could read.  And I LOVED the idea.   In fact, I loved the idea so much that I started doing it and I started asking a bunch of my fellow adoptive parents who I knew online and in person to start a blog too.

I didn't know what was happening, but we were creating this awesome little community that sustained us for several years.  Many of the blog entries were just us doing a complete brain dump of all the things that were stressing us out and then commenting to support each other.  Nobody was worrying about Search Engine Optimization or driving traffic there, or selling products or promoting a business.   We were just barfing up whatever was inside to help us move on.   Did we help each other?  For sure!!! Did we provide insight and hope and reality to new adoptive parents?  I certainly hope so?  Did we provide opportunities for curious voyeurs to watch our lives unfold like a soap opera?  Most certainly.   My friend Kari used to say, "Your blog is like a bad car accident.  You don't want to look but you can't help yourself."

I found great fulfillment in blogging.  But what took me to the next level was that I helped others discover the joys of it too.  It has never been enough for me in my life to experience something super cool and not do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible get to have that feeling as well.

In thinking back over my life, I was 13 when I really let Jesus take over my life.  It was back in the 70s which is a completely different world.  I was at a youth retreat, surrounded by my buddies from church, and all the sudden the reality of the fact that Jesus lived within me hit me.  I had asked him into my heart at 3, but this was different.   I remember the song we sang that night like it was yesterday,

"I have decided, I've made up my mind, I will serve the Lord.  I'll leave the world and it's treasures, behind, I will serve the Lord."

I went back to that moment so many times during my teen, college and even adult years when I was tempted to abandon my faith.

And guess what?  I talked about Jesus.  I still talk about Him.   A lot.   He permeates every moment of my life and I want everyone I know to experience that too.  I'm not one of those people who walks around with tracks handing them out to others, nor do I recite the four spiritual laws over coffee in "soul winning appointments."  But I love talking about what Jesus has done for because I know that He'll do it for others too.

I went to a Christian college and I loved my experience there so much that I went into college student development as my first career.  I wanted others to have what I had .... an amazing circle of friends, spiritual challenge and depth, incredible professors.  And so I became passionate about Christian higher ed and talked about it a lot.

Going way back to when I bought my first Macintosh IIci in 1989, I have been a Mac evangelist.  I am forced to squelch it sometimes, and I don't make a pain of myself with it very often, but I love my Mac and all it can do for me.  I love my iPhone and I am completely convinced that nothing else is like it and you will never sell me on a different kind of smart phone.  I love Apple ... with all of their ups and downs as a company.   And I want you to see how great they are too.

I went on a missions trip to Mexico and for years after that I tried to convince everyone I knew to go on a missions trip to Mexico because it changed my life.   It changed my life so much that I ended up living in Mexico for two years, sharing passionately with everyone I could about the beauty and joy of that culture.

And then I became a foster parent and learned about children needed to be adopted, and since that time in 1996 I have not shut up about recruiting everyone I can to consider how to help this population of people.  I gave  my personal life to adoption wholeheartedly and  given my professional life to it for 14 years.   I talk about it a lot.

I have been reminded again this month about where I find my true fulfillment -- it's in watching others experience something super cool because I told them about it.   Yes, it's bullet journaling.   I have not had this much joy I discovered and shared the joy of blogging with my friends back in 2005.  Since I discovered it about 5 weeks ago, I have convinced three of my friends in Danville to start one.  I have encouraged coworkers to get one.  We had company last week and I was trying to get them interested. I have mentioned mine online multiple times.  

Yesterday a package arrived for Gabby and I -- the last of the bullet journal supplies that I will be buying for a while.   One of the things I had ordered is a set of 120 gel markers that are actually 120 different colors.   Some of them have glitter in them.   Gabby was beyond excited.  When you're seven and LOVE to color, 120 markers with some that glitter.... well, I'll put it in her words.  "This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my whole life."

She and I were working on our journals and using these new markers and she was chattering away.  She said, "Grandma?  Can you stop talking about your bullet journal?  Because I just can't stop talking about this stuff.  I just keep talking about these markers.   I just love them so much I can't stop talking about them.   Are you like that?"

And I realized yes, I am like that.   If I am convinced that something is super cool and life changing, I can't stop talking about it.

So it's bullet journaling -- it's changed my life.  But the really cool thing for me to see is how it is changing the lives of people I have introduced it to.

If you know me in person, you'll be hearing about it.  You may even be forced to look at it.   I'll offer to design you some printable pages in Photoshop.  I'll help you decide what kind to buy and where to get supplies.  I'll suggest ways I think it will help you.

And if you try it, there will be nothing that will bring me more fulfillment that than.

So any time in my life where someone comes to me and says,

"Thank you for introducing me to.... Christian higher ed, or Mexico, or Apple products, or blogging, or foster care and adoption, or bullet journaling, or, most importantly, Jesus.....I will be most fulfilled of all.

I realize that many of you will not have gotten this far, but if you have, thanks for listening to the musings of an old woman.  Because this was the original intent of blogging -- to give a voice to the thoughts of the rider, not to bring traffic to a tool to sell books or materials to someone else.   Just to let me speak.

I still believe in blogging in it's purity as you can see.

And oh, if you haven' heard about it yet, have I mentioned that I have started a bullet journal?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Live Like It!

Have you ever had the experience when you read through Scripture of something jumping out to you that you had never heard quite that way before?

As I mentioned, I have been staying out of being political scene on Facebook as I attempt to value all of my friends.

However, I feel that I received some pretty clear direction. as I was listening to Leviticus, of all things, this past week.  These words seemed to be louder than the other words that my YouVersion Bible App was speaking.

I am God, your God, who has distinguished you from the nations. So live like it.

What does that mean to you?  I know what it means to me.

So let's do it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Deep Work Wednesday Challenge

So, for three weeks now I've been talking about Deep Work Wednesday.   The idea is that we all need to turn off electronics and spend time thinking or reading or studying or writing -- without any interruption or any electronic stimulation.   I have been able to get a lot accomplished in just 30-45 minutes when I put this into practice.

Some of you may be having trouble knowing what to do during your time, so I challenge you to take 30-45 minutes and sit down with a piece of paper.  Write at the top:   January in Review.   Then answer three questions:

1)  What worked?

2)  What didn't work?

3)  What do I need to improve?

Sometimes thinking back and reviewing the ways things have gone can help us move toward the future.

As a short cut, you can even print this one.

Think about thinking.  It's definitely not over-rated.

One Month Into Bullet Journaling

I must admit that bullet journaling is changing my life.  And I am going to tell you about it because I want it to change yours.

So, one month ago i started my first journal.  I knew NOTHING about this until the week after Christmas and now I found out that it is everywhere.  The Facebook group I am in has 97,000 members.... it is all over Pinterest .... instagram has tons of people who have their whole channel dedicated t it and the number of blog entries is endless.

So why is it so cool?  Because you track.  literally.  everything.   There is nothing that can't be tracked.

There are a lot of pages that I have chosen not to create that many others have.  For example, I do not do a page per month.   I don't find that necessary.   I do not track my moods -- I am pretty much in the same mood every day anyway (Bart says it is one step away from b****y).   I don't track the netflix episodes that I'm watching because Netflix tracks it anyway.  I don't drink wine, so I'm not tracking the kinds I like or don't like.   I did not do the 30 day ab challenge either :-).   I don't have a cat so I don't track what kinds of food it will eat and I don't need to track assignments because I am long out of college.  But the cool thing about a bullet journal is that there is an endless number of possibilities.

So, in case you're curious, here is what I am doing in my journal:

I do a weekly spread for every week that is basically my calendar and to do list.
I have a page to track my work goals for this year.
I have a page of books to read where I color them in once they are read.
I track my steps compared to the goals that I have set for myself (in two different ways)
I track my blood sugars and my insulin.
I am memorizing Philippians so I track that.
I am going to read/listen to the whole Bible this year, so I am tracking progress there.
I'm writing two books this year, so i have goals that pertain to that.
I'm tracking my weight loss.
I have a list of movies that I want to see some day with the dates when I see them.
I have a page where I am putting my "ebenezer" stones to celebrate God moments.
I have a "Deep Work Wednesday" page for thoughts on what to do then.
I have a Finish Well Friday page for my top three things on Fridays
I have habit trackers for each month (one of my favorite and most helpful pages)
I have a list of blogging ideas.
I have a highlight page for each month (another one of my favorites.
I have a list of my best ideas for January, but I didn't have many, so I may not repeat this page.
I have a meal planning page because I have been helping Bart with cooking.
Bart and I went an entire month without going out so I tracked our spending savings.
I have Lectio Divina pages for my Wednesday night Bible Study.
I have a  Month in Review page to look back and ask what worked, what didn't and what I need to improve.
I have a new challenge to not spend any extra money in February so I get to color in a dollar sign for every day I don't spend anything.  (there are a few exceptions like essentials -- gas and groceries for example)
I have a page that has a box for all of the 22 boxes we still haven't packed in the last year since we moved.  I figure we can unpack a box a week for 22 weeks and be done.
I have a sleep tracker because Bart and I are trying to figure out what conditions help us sleep.
I have a goal for us to have 21 unique meals from different countries this year.

I may be forgetting a couple, but you get the idea.   The possibilities are endless.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that if I spent all that time making those pages I probably didn't get anything else done.  But the truth is I have had the most productive month in recent history in January.

I also knocked three things off of our bucket list after going months without getting any of them done.  We had more fun in January than we have had in months as well.

There was also the perk of spending time with Gabby, who also has a journal, and Salinda who has started one.  We work on them together and it's super fun.

So.... I'm sold.   Anybody else trying this?

Do you want to go back?

There are many times I look at my life and think that I might like to go back to a time or a place where life was different...

I would love to go back to when I weighed 140 pounds, for example, my senior year of High School, before I injured my back and could do anything physically that I wanted to do.   Back then I totally took my good health and young body for granted.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to when I was a single professional.  I had energy to stay up and play Rook until 3 in the morning and still get up the next day.  I had tons of friends, plenty of money I could spend on only me, and compared to now, very few responsibilities.

And then there are times when I look back over our four homes and churches that we had in our first twenty years of marriage.   I remember the people, I remember the experiences, I remember the good moments.  I remember times when our kids were younger and our house was full of energy and fun.

I look back over jobs that I have had, particularly back at Bethany, and think about how much fun it was to work with my local team and how much I loved my fellow RDs.   I think about my board and the relationship we had and I miss those days.

The children of Israel were the same way.   They told Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt.  They even list leeks and onions as a reason.   They remembered all the good things about Egypt as it compared to their wilderness experience and they were convinced that they wanted to go back.

But just like we do, they forgot the bad parts and reminisced about the good times of the past.  They somehow even forgot about the fact that they were hard-working slaves!

Moses tried to help them realize that they were where God wanted them, and that there was a purpose.

As I look back on days past and wish that I could go back, I certainly realize that there are parts of my life that I don't want to give up in order to go back.   I don't want to be in high school again.... I wasn't exactly popular and those were painful days.

I would love to go back and play Rook for a night or two, but there is something comforting about crawling into bed at 9:30 with a person you've spent nearly half your life with.

It would be fun to chase around little kids for a day or two, but my blog can attest that I got TIRED and CRABBY when we had a houseful.  And you will notice that above I never said I wanted to go back to the years when we had 9 teenagers at once.

I'd love to go back in time and worship with each of our congregations for a Sunday, but if I were there I would be missing my people here.

I miss my old jobs, and my old friends, but I still talk to some of them very often.  I still connect to them on Facebook and I know that they are there for me ... just a text away... if I need them.  And I have new people to fill their places right here and right now.

Sure, we all want to go back sometimes, but it's important to remember that God has a plan for us that includes us being right here right now.   That's where our energy needs to be -- on the present.

Thought I'd stick this song in here because it always makes me smile.  Keith Green had a powerful impact on my adolescence and he summed up this idea well in this song.