Friday, June 30, 2017

The Upward Spiral

Relationships are just plain hard.  In any relationship, two people each bring their "stuff" to every interchange.   We bring our personalities, our temperaments, and, unfortunately, our baggage into every conversation we have with another person.  Part of that baggage is a history of past trauma, and we can't control it when our amygdalas are hijacked.

So relationships are like a spiral that goes one or two ways.  Either the things that we say or do in each interchange cause the relationship to spiral down, or to spiral up.  Either we get a little closer every time and the relationship is strengthened, or we grow farther and farther apart and it spirals down.

So what determines which way the spiral heads?  I would offer to you the idea that it is all about forgiveness and putting grace in the middle.  

My guess is that you have at least broken relationship right now.  Maybe the other person doesn't even know it is broken, but you have something going on in your head or heart about them that isn't right.  You have negative thoughts about them, you talk bad about them to other people, you believe the worst about them.  

When that happens, the spiral goes in the wrong direction and as it does, each interaction is worse than the next.  You have written an unhealthy script in your head (or as BrenĂ© Brown calls it, a S***y First Draft) of who they are and what is happening.  As you write the story you are finding everything you can to prove your point -- they are a bad ________ (fill in the blank .... father, husband, sister, coworker, boss, subordinate, friend, etc.)  You stop looking for the good and every conversation proves YOUR point.  You are seeing it all through darkly colored glasses that are no longer accurate.

There is a a way to turn that around.   It's called forgiveness.   Having an honest conversation that involves confession on your part for the bad attitude is the best way to do this, but if that can't happen, then even just forgiving the other person without a conversation can make a difference.

I wrote another post about this and how it fits into a dysfunctional system this morning if you are interested.  It's here.

I want to point out one more thing:   if you believe in spiritual warfare and the presence of an enemy who is fighting us every day to steal our joy and destroy us, this is his all time favorite trick.  If he can mess with our relationships, he will destroy our progress.  It's a given.

Forgive someone today and start watching a downward spiral start to turn into an upward spiral.   It's not enough to do it once.... it needs to happen over and over again.... 490 times maybe .... but each time stick grace in the middle and forgive.  It works.  It really does.

Ten Guidelines to Beat a Dysfunctional System #5: Give Everyone a Fresh Start and a Clean Slate

So, let's review what happens in a dysfunctional system, in case you have forgotten.   In a dysfunctional system everyone has a role that they play.   The faces and names change, but the roles don't.  And that is why it is so hard for the dysfunction to be broken.

Let's use the example of a church.   In a dysfunctional church system there are those two or three families who "try to control everything and are never happy."  So, when a new pastor comes in, everyone convinces the new pastor that if those few people were gone, the church will change.  So, new pastor comes in and takes his/her stand against those two or three couples.   Finally either the pastor wins them over, or they get mad and leave and for a little while everything seems great.

Until all the sudden two or three different families start to fulfill the role of "the ones who try to control everyone and are never happy."  People start to complain about them and how they are ruining everything.   So, the pastor begins to work with them for a while and maybe they settle down or maybe they leave too.   What happens next?  You guessed it, someone else fills the role.

And what is the solution after all this happens several times?  It must be the pastor!   Let's get a new pastor and that will solve everything.   Pastors change,  honeymoon over, and what do you know?  The same thing happens again.

So what is the trick to beating this?  Recognizing the roles and then everyone giving each other a fresh start and a clean slate.   Start looking for the good in the person who fulfills the role of "worst person" or "hardest to get along with" or "black sheep."   Give a new start to the person you have viewed as being critical of you and start looking for ways they support you.

If you expect the worst, you will probably get it.  Start expecting the best.

If everyone in the system does this, there can be immediate and rapid change.  But if only you do this, it will make you feel way better about things, which might shake up the system in and of itself.  If one person changes .... the whole system changes slightly.

Fresh starts?  Clean slates?  Not easy to do, but not impossible either.   Try it.  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Back in that Same Old Spot?

Ever wake up and realize that you are right back where you were a few months ago? Maybe you made some progress and were feeling really good about it and then you stopped paying attention and then suddenly realize that you are in that same spot AGAIN!

That happens to me with weight.   I work super hard to lose some and then I stop paying attention and the next time I'm back on the scale and I have gained it all back.   Sigh.   Don't you hate it when that happens?

A few things at work have happened lately that made me realize that in some regards the dysfunctional system has sucked people in.   A year and a half ago I started a series about how to combat dysfunctional systems that I never finished, and I think I need to go back and finish it.  (Here is an example ... the fourth guideline).     But the challenge with dysfunctional systems is that they are just like weight... if you stop paying attention some of the function comes back to drag you in.

A year and a half ago I was paying attention carefully to the system and I was calling people to warfare against the enemy.   It was a daily battle and I was paying attention.  But I took my focus off and stuff is starting to creep back in.  But this time around the right people are here to fight together to get it done.  A few adjustments need to be made, but this time it will be a lot easier to get back on track.

I share this all only to share hope.  Things happened yesterday that proved to me that some of our biggest victories are ahead of us.   God hasn't stopped paying attention, like I did.   He has been here all along, offering us his weapons of war against the enemy.

So what does all this have to do with you?   If you have lost ground and find yourself right back to where you used to be, pay attention.   God hasn't forgotten you.   He still offers you the tools and gives you the courage and strength that you need to conquer whatever stands in your path.

One of my all time favorite quotes by M.H.S. Pourri says
“At any given moment, you have the power to say that this is NOT how the story is going to END”
You have the power today to choose to fight the battle again. You have everything that you need to conquer the giant you face, even if you have failed time and time again.  The enemy isn't going to win this one..... with God's help.  YOU ARE.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ever Regretted Telling Your Story?

All of us have a story.   We have a long, drawn out, life-story and we have little stories of things that happen to us on a daily basis.  If you have an unusual life, there are parts of your story that may not be for "general consumption."  Some people just can't handle messy.

If you are a foster or adoptive parent, or the parent of a child with special needs, there are plenty of chapters in our story that are not understood by the general public.  And so you have to be careful who you share them with.

My kids love to get me telling stories.  They each have their favorites and they request them whenever we meet knew people.  These stories have become family legends.  When they were younger, they had no discretion (some of them still don't) and would request when new parishioners were over for the first time that I tell the "knife story."  I had to teach them that most people don't understand a story that starts with, "When John was in 5th grade he pulled a knife on me before breakfast one school day."  It just doesn't compute.

In the book of Job, the same thing happened to Job.  He had three "friends" who he tried to tell his story too.  By their reactions, it was obvious that they did not get it.   His story was so hard, so tragic, that the only thing they could do was reacted cerebrally to his plight.  They concluded that if Job had bad things happening to him, it was because he had done something bad.  They spent a long time trying to convince him of this, but he did not relent.

This morning I was yelling very loudly at 6:30 am to my son on the phone.  I'm not going to share the story as it is one that is very complex and very much unlike what "normal" families deal with that most people would have no idea how to respond.     I choose to tell my story to those who have gone through something similar, because they will respond with empathy, not sympathy, and will react to the emotions not the facts.  

The good news, though, is that there is One with whom I can share every story, even the ones I tell nobody else about.    When we share our story with Jesus, no matter what our challenges, he always gets it.   In The Message, Hebrews 2:18-19 says this:

That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed. 
If you have a story today that you are afraid to share because you don't think anyone will get it, tell it to Jesus.   Apparently in 1846 people felt the same way we do sometimes, because this hymn was written that year:

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a Friend that’s well known.
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Saturday Summary on Sunday

I'm not confused really.  I know it's not Saturday.  It's been a while since I've posted a Saturday summary, and in fact Saturday Summaries aren't often on Saturdays anymore.  But that's ok, right?  The point is to give people who care an update on what's going on with us.

So, what's going on with us?  Well, last weekend Bart and I got away for our anniversary thanks to the United Methodist Church hosting annual conference in Hampton, VA (which is very near the beach).  We stayed in a  lovely hotel on the marina, and Bart went to meetings and I worked from the hotel and read and watched Netflix and relaxed.  It was quite nice.

Everyone seems to be doing fairly well right now as far as we know.  Tomorrow our grandson Silas turns 4 and today some of our kids are helping celebrate that in Minnesota.   Jimmy asked if he could move here, Tony said he was moving out of where he is in MN but then didn't, Dominyk threw out his shoulder and had to go to urgent care, Salinda and Wilson are working a lot....Like I said, nothing excited.


MY NOVEL IS DONE and should be here in a little over a week.  So I spent this weekend (when I wasn't in Greensboro with Bart) finishing the book and ordering it, and getting the website done so you can pre-order your copy of the book.

So here's the what it looks like....

If you preorder it you can save $$$.   So, here's the link to order!

If You're Good, Good Things Will Happen to You

There are plenty of people in the world who have this premise:  Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  In fact, Job's friends in Scripture believed this at the core of their beings and that is why they believed that Job was lying.   He held on to his integrity, swore he had not done anything evil, and they just kept coming back at him.   Their message was this:  "If you would just confess all the evil you are doing, God will forgive you and bless you.  But you are hiding secret sins -- if you weren't bad things wouldn't have happened to you."

If you are fortunate, you have lived a life where you have done good and good has happened to you in return.... and you can agree with Job's friends.  But, if you are like many of us, you have had a lot of things happen to you that were not good when you were doing your best to please God.

In the first chapter of Job when he had everything taken away, He said this:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

And the chapter concludes, "In all of this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. 

Job didn't do anything wrong, nor did he accuse God of wrongdoing.  And he recognized what Jesus would later point out in Matthew 5:  that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  

If you are feeling like maybe you did something wrong and that is why you are facing hard times, let that go.  Recognize that stuff happens.... and that the Lord gives and takes away.  And then bless Him, but don't charge Him with wrong.


When I was a college administrator, I took an opportunity every year at the beginning of the year to preach in chapel about integrity.   I explained it like this:

Integrity is doing what you say, and saying what you think.  Your thoughts, your words, your actions all match up.  I preached good 3 point sermons, tying in that the students needed to be careful that they kept the rules (I was the Dean of Students, so there were reasons for talking about this).  :-)

Speaking about integrity often, I had to work hard to guard mine.  I didn't want to do anything that might make people think that I was dishonest or cheating someone, or having something come out of my mouth that contradicted my actions.  I still work not that to this very day.

Job had his integrity questioned by his friends, because in their world view, bad things only happened to bad people, so since so many bad things were happening to job, he must be a bad dude.  But he refused to agree with them.   In chapter 27 he says:

I’ll not deny my integrity even if it costs me my life.  I’m holding fast to my integrity and not loosening my grip—and, believe me, I’ll never regret it.
Job had spent a lifetime maintaining his integrity.  When he lost everything, it was about all he had to hold on to, but he had that.

I hope that none of us find us in the position Job was in, but if we do, it's my prayer that we will all have  integrity to which we can "hold fast."

(You saw that my novel is about to be published, right?  You can preorder by clicking here).

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Double Funeral

I find it quite humorous the way that we sum up a person by one idea, thought, or word.  We tend to put others in a corner and define them by one trait that is most significant.
If I were to ask you about the biblical character Job you might say "he was the one who remained faithful to God no matter what.  He had faith even when God did all kinds of horrible things to him. What a great man!"
But if you read the book of Job you will see that he was really a whiny butt.  Now, I was going to title this post "Job was a whiny butt" but I figured that you would all find that either immature or offensive.  But seriously7, chapters of the book are basically him whining.  This is from chapter 17 in the Message.

If all I have to look forward to is a home in the graveyard,if my only hope for comfort is a well-built coffin, If a family reunion means going six feet under,and the only family that shows up is worms,Do you call that hope?Who on earth could find any hope in that?No. If hope and I are to be buried together,I suppose you'll all come to the double funeral!"
There are so many blog posts that I could write about the book of Job and I might write several, but this is the one I want you to learn from today.

People don't have to be "either-or."  They aren't good or bad, smart or stupid, kind or mean, etc.   Human beings are complex and we can be "both-and."   We can be both patient at work and impatient at home, polite to strangers and rude among friends, talkative at a party but quiet in meetings.   And sometimes we can be different in one day."

So that is how Job, the whiny butt, can also be the guy who states loudly,
"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25)
David was the guy who killed a dude after sleeping with his wife AND was a man after God's own heart.  Abraham was the man who was known for his faith AND slept with his servant to get a son faster than God planned.

And maybe the people around you have visible stuff that put them in the category of "bad" but actually are people that God sees as good.

A thought worth pondering.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's All About Me....

If you are currently living with teenagers or young adults, you know that they kind of have tunnel vision and they only see the world as it applies to them.   Their little world is all that really matters.

Even us "older adults" can get into the pattern of believing "it's all about me" and forgetting the rest of the picture.

If there was anyone who could have made everything about her it is Esther.  When she is first introduced in Esther 2 she is described this way:  "The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face." When it comes to what society tells us, those things alone would give her the right to build a world that was all about her.

But if you move forward a couple chapters, you will see that she had a choice to make.   She could risk her life for her family or her people, or she could remain silent.  She was told:
"If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this."
Esther had a choice to make.   She had to decide whether or not the people around her and the cause to which she was committed were more important than she herself.   If you know the story, you know that she responded,
 If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die. (or, in the King James Version, if I perish, I perish."
Do you have anything in your life that is important enough for you to risk your life?  Have you been able to put yourself behind your family, your friends, or the cause to which you were created when it comes to setting your priorities?

I pray daily for the courage to have the attitude of Esther and to remember that it's not all about me.  In fact, it's WAY beyond me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not Feeling So Great About Yourself?

Shame.  Guilt.  Regret.  Rejection.  Self-Hatred.  Dirty.  All words that are part of us at one point in time in our lives.   Sometimes we get stuck in a place where we don't see our own value.

Or maybe those are not words that are a part of you.  Maybe you have overcome whatever you have in your past that caused those feelings.  Or possibly, you are young enough, or fortunate enough, to have had a life that to this point has been free of things that cause those emotions.

One of the joys of being a Christian is knowing that those feelings do not have to enslave us .... that there is grace, and mercy and forgiveness that awaits us at every turn.   And whether or not these are things you struggle with personally, we all know people who are caught in that shame, blame, guilt, regret cycle who need the hope that we have.

I encourage you today to do two things as you listen to this powerful song:  Be reminded of God's grace for YOU and then be reminded that we have the privilege of sharing that grace with others who might be feeling this way.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What If......

How does it make you feel when someone you have only meant once remembers your name?  Sometimes it surprises me, sometimes I wonder why they remember, but in almost every situation it makes me feel good.   I like it when someone knows my name.

In listening through the old testament over the past few months I have been surprised at the number of chapters that have simply been a list of the names of people.  So and so was the father of so and so who was the father of so and so.... the begats of the King James Version.  I get weary of them and I think, "Who cares?  Can't this part be over with?  Why is it even in the Bible?"

But yesterday it occurred to me.   What if God had that all included because He wanted us to know that he cared about EACH of those people.  That all of those names that are hard to pronounce in Scripture represented a life .... a person .... a contribution ... and that God knew each name, each person, and that each life had value.

If that is true of Azariah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk, Harim, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah and Bilgai (some of the many men in Nehemiah who signed an oath agreeing to follow God) then it is true of me.  Of you.  Of each of us.

God knows your name.  He SEES you as a person, as a meaningful life, as a person who can and will make a difference.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Right now I'm overlooking the Marina in Hampton, Virginia.   Bart is at Annual Conference and I'm working from the hotel room.   It's amazing how much work a person can get done when they are not in the office. But you knew that.

We had a great time last night celebrating our anniversary at Mango Mangeaux ...  a pretty cool little seafood restaurant here in Hampton with complete orange decor and excellent food.  Their Mango Mangeaux Preserves were actually featured on "Shark Tank" if that means anything to you.

Like every other married couple in the world, our anniversary reminds me of our wedding when a quartet of four of our favorite people sang this song (a special arrangement of it that was written by a friend of ours).

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. 

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. 
The irony of it all is how much this has been what is required to make it through the last 21 years of parenting kids with a  history of trauma.... to love where there is hatred, to believe when it seems like it's impossible to believe, to find hope in the midst of the worst kinds of despair, and to look for the joy every day when life is filled with sadness.

We had no idea when we stood there, committing ourselves to each other, that our journey was going to require that God answer that prayer and teach us to comfort, rather than to seek to be comforted, to work hard to understand and make that a priority above being understood, and to reaching out, offering love to those who had no ability to love us back.

Each year when our anniversary comes up, I am reminded of the song and I pray the prayer one more time, asking that God do it for us for another year.   And here we are, still standing, 21 years, 12 children, two baby daddies, two baby mamas, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a daughter-in-law and seven grandchildren later.

If we've made it this far, it looks like God has answered that prayer that was sung all those years ago.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Who does Life with You?

Do you enjoy mingling?   Are meetings where people stand around and make small talk with a drink or little appetizers in their hands fun for you?   I absolutely abhor them.   Part of it is probably that I am in in pain when I stand, but the other part is that I really don't do shallow.  I don't enjoy conversations where there is no depth and I always try to steer conversations into something more meaningful.

Knowing that you might not be surprised that the thing that matters most to me are the relationships that go deep....  the ones where people "do life" with me and where no conversations are shallow.   I would love to go back and tell you about so many of those friendships that I have had over the years, but I would leave someone out (or take more of your time than you are willing to give me).    I'm sure you have a list too.  People who have allowed you to know them and to whom you have been willing to be known.   For some people it's a very short list ... maybe a list of one.  I can think of least one person that stands out in every chapter of my life who has been "my person" for that season (as our friend Meredith often said of Christina on Grey's Anatomy).

(Excuse the photo above…. I sarcastically post it because it really isn’t me to have bouquets all over my dress, and it certainly isn’t like Bart to take my hand and gaze down at me lovingly.  Just sayin.)

However, today is the day that I celebrate "my person" over the last 21 years.   Today is our anniversary and Bart and I have sure packed a lot into these years.   There is nobody else who I can imagining doing life with over hills and valleys of pastoring and parenting that we have encountered in our marriage.  He is a patient and supportive husband (I could not have done any of the things I have done the last two decades without his encouragement).   He is also an amazing father and the best grandpa a kid could ever want.   I am so very blessed that HE is the one I get to hear preach every Sunday, regardless of where I move because he is so gifted.  Having him walk with me is by far the second greatest gift I have ever been given.

Which leads me to the ultimate blessing of my life ... the fact that I have had Jesus to "do life with me." Above and beyond all others -- He is "My person."  He knows me fully and I have spent my life yearning to know Him as fully as I can.   He has walked with me from the moment of my birth and nowhere I have ever moved or been has been a place He wouldn't go with me.   He has never once left me to do life by myself.

So on what I have called #ThankfulThursday I give thanks for all those who have walked with me, done life with me, known me and been known.  They are what has added the color to my life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's Your Part?

In my observation of humanity, most people who have grown up in healthy homes and have not experienced a great deal of trauma, are interested in doing their part to make the world a better place.  Sure, there are things that throw people off track.... crisis, addiction, anxiety and depression, etc.... but when human beings are in a healthy place, they usually want to give back and do their part.  The challenge is in knowing exactly what that part is.

How much do you know about the book of Nehemiah?  I have loved it since I was a teenager because it's about a dude that got a whole bunch of people together to take on a huge project.  A few people, I don't know if we would call them his friends, tried their best to discourage him, but he got it done.

Even before my teen years, doing just that has been a part of my personality and some of my favorite moments in life have been when a team I led pulled off something amazing.   I orchestrated a back yard theatre sometime before I was ten where we had a bedspread over the clothesline and all of the children came to my yard where I directed them and my little brothers in several theatrical performances.   My favorite was when I somehow convinced my little brother Nathan to be Goldilocks.  All of the parents in the neighborhood came to every performance.  We had chairs set up, we served snacks.  It was awesome.

Move ahead about 20 years and I got it in my head that the student body at then Bartlesville Wesleyan College could raise $5,000 in six weeks to help paint and furnish a missionary's home in Mexico.  The college president, who is my lifetime mentor and friend, knowing exactly how to mentor me, told me there was NO WAY we could raise $5,000.   Instead we raised over 8,000 and those raising the highest amount took a missions trip down to do the painting ourselves.  I still remember vividly the day we presented the check to the missionaries in chapel.   One of my favorite memories.

Jump ahead another 20 years and there was a huge need for foster parents in Minneapolis, but my Bethany budget wouldn't allow any additional funds to start a foster care program.  So my team did it anyway, and now the program flourishes with me miles away.

So you see why I love Nehemiah.   Yesterday I was listening to it again, and some very simple verses from Chapter Three, that most people would never base a devotional or a sermon on, stuck out to me.

Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab rebuilt another section that included the Tower of Furnaces. Working next to him was Shallum son of Hallohesh, mayor of the other half-district of Jerusalem, along with his daughters.The Valley Gate was rebuilt by Hanun and villagers of Zanoah; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. They went on to repair 1,500 feet of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.The Dung Gate itself was rebuilt by Malkijah son of Recab, the mayor of the district of Beth Hakkerem; he repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.
You're probably thinking that the fact that it was called the Dung Gate stuck out to be, but it wasn't that.   What struck me was that each person knew their part.   It doesn't stop there.... in fact this description goes for 33 full verses and is the entirety of chapter three.

It would be so cool if God simply met us at the beginning of our lives and said, "You're part in life is to rebuild the Dung Gate.   That's your job."

Instead, He says to us, "You have a  part to play.  In fact, you have several parts to play in changing this world and making it a better place.   As your life unfolds, what I want you to do will unfold.  Just take one step at a time.

It is our job to show up, take the next step, and find out what our part is and where our place is in this world.  .   And then, when we finish that part, we look for the next part, the next place.  It's the way God intended us for live and it's an amazing adventure.  This song has been a favorite since it came out.  Doesn't he look young!  Yikes, I guess we both were back then.

Monday, June 12, 2017

In God's Opinion

Do you ever wonder what God's opinion of you is?  In fact, what is YOUR opinion of you?   If it is less than positive, I you must be human.

I confess that I not been feeling that great about myself the past day or so.    I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my faults and the wrong things I have done and not really acknowledging that I have many gifts or strengths at all.  I was pretty caught up in negativity and in keeping a record of my own wrongs. 

That changed a bit as I w listening to 2nd Chronicles in The Message during my journey through the Bible this year.   For a while there, each chapter seemed to begin with the name of the king, how old he was when he started his reign, and then it said, "And in God's opinion...." and then the words "he was a good king" or "he was a bad king, an evil king."  And then the chapter tells the story of that particular king's life.

I started thinking about what God's opinion is of us as people, and more specifically, what God's opinion is of me.   And I realized that in the Old Testament, God's opinions were simply based on the actions of the person.  What they did determined if they were good or if they were evil.  In that case, in Old Testament terms,  I'm kinda screwed.   Not that I intentionally do evil things, but like most humans, I make lots of mistakes.

But the good news is that we are  not living in the BC years -- those old testament years before God revealed His new covenant.  We are living after Christ came to change God's opinion..... to die on a cross that makes us all flawless.

God's opinion of me is not based on the mistakes I've made, or even my actions, but on what Christ did for me.   And the same is true of you.

God's opinion of you is that you are His beloved, redeemed child.   You are GOOD because Jesus makes you good. 

And that's a thought worth pondering. 

I'm sure I've shared this video before, but it's super cool so I'm going to embed it again :-)

Monday's Saturday Summary

I know that some of you may have a hard time believing this, but I did not touch my computer on Saturday.   Not once.  That doesn't happen often.

So, let me back up.

Last week I stayed in Brookneal from Sunday night until Friday.   That, also, doesn't happen often.  I greeted my friend Jeff (my former boss at Bethany) who has come here to work and his wife Cheryl.  We helped them settle in Sunday afternoon and then went out to dinner with them and unmedicated Dominyk who made the dinner interesting, to say the least.

Monday I spent the day in the Brookneal office with hardly anyone around.  I got some stuff done, but it was weird being here all day.....

Tuesday was my day in Lynchburg, meetings all.   day.  long.

Wednesday I stayed in my apartment in Brookneal working with the exception of an endocrinologist appointment in Lynchburg -- then Bart joined me up here and we had dinner with Jeff and Cheryl.  Fun.  Like super fun.

Thursday I worked in Brookneal all day, and then Friday had more meetings.  Left Friday morning to take Bart out for his 53rd birthday.   Came home and hung out with my grandkids Gabby and Carlos before putting them to bed.

Saturday Bart and I went shopping in Greensboro, had lunch and then came home and did pretty much nothing the rest of the day.

Yesterday was church, lunch out, and a fun evening  picnic at a friend's lake home for the "young adult" Sunday School class I attend, and then back to Brookneal this morning.

I know it isn't exciting, but that's what happens when I'm in Brookneal alone.   The picture below was pretty much the highlight of my week.  I love seeing them have so much fun!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Working All Night

I spend many of my nights working on something.  I mean all.....night.....long.  In my dreams, while I sleep, I work on things.  Anybody else have dreams like that?

Nearly every night I have a dream where there is a problem that needs to be solved.  Sometimes I understand it completely and I'm trying to explain it to others, sometimes I'm trying to understand the dynamics and am asking others to explain it to me, and my personal favorite (sarcasm intended) are the dreams where Bart knows how to fix it and he is finding it amusing to NOT share the solution with me. Poor guy hates getting punched in the face when he wakes up.  Ok, I was totally kidding about that.  I do not punch my husband.

I suppose it doesn't take a genius psychotherapist or dream analyst to conclude that I am a fixer.  I have a desire to get into a situation, understand the dynamics, figure out a solution and DO something about it.   The challenge with that is that the older I get the more I realize that there are a lot of things in life that aren't fixable.


Yup, I said it.  Some things can't be fixed and never will be by us..... no matter what we do or how hard we try.

So once again I remind you that we are not in control and we are not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent.   But God is.

And God can, in His timing, and in His wisdom, fix things.  Even the unfixable things.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Every morning we wake up thinking that we know what that day will bring.   We may think to ourselves, "yawn, same old, same old" as we crawl out of bed.   We expect very little and often we get very little.

You may have heard the name Scooter Gennett this week, but unless you are a baseball fan (fan is short for fanatic, you know) you probably had never heard of him before Tuesday.    He is a 27 year old former Milwaukee Brewer who now plays for the reds.  His time with Milwaukee was nothing special, really.  In fact if you look him up you'll see that he ended up on the disabled list for cutting his hand in the shower in 2015.  Sounds pretty human to me.

When I happened to be watch the Reds play the Cardinals on Tuesday night, I didn't know I would be watching history.   I was expecting, to be honest, another typical game.

Scooter came to the field on Tuesday night not expecting to play.  He was in a slump.  In fact, he was 0 hits of 19 at bat.  But Scott Schebler, who usually plays in the outfield had made a diving catch a few games before and hurt his shoulder, and he was supposed to be back in the game.  But practice got rained out and he couldn't warm up and show that he was ready to play, so they put Scooter in.  So he showed up and played ball just like he was supposed to.

By the time the game was over,  Scooter Gennett, who most people had never heard of, had a career high of 10 RBIs in one game and became the first Cincinnati Red to hit 4 home runs in a single game.  In fact, he is one of only 17 people in the history of professional baseball to 4 homers in a game   (And just so you have some perspective, that's a history of 148 years (professional baseball began, ironically Cincinnati in 1869).

One other interesting piece of information is that Scooter is a Christian.  So each time he hit one of those homers I said, "Wow, God loves Scooter Gennett!"  But you and I both know that God loves all the players, that there are Christians on both teams, and that He very well may be staying out of sports completely, other than answering the prayers of players who ask Him to help them do their best.

So what is the lesson in this for you and me?  I believe there are two.

One is that you just gotta keep showing up.   You never know when your slump might be over and this might be the day you've been waiting for.   I can guarantee you that I will never break any sports records, but maybe today is the day that I say something to someone who leads them to Christ.  Or maybe today, you might have a thought that revolutionizes the way you do things at work and changes the lives of people forever.   Possibly, this is the day that you might meet a future spouse, find out your pregnant with your first child, or hear news that the cancer your favorite aunt feared would lead to her death is completely gone.   Every day when we wake up we don't know what we're gonna get, like Forrest taught us years ago.

Second, is that God loved Scooter Gennett just as much when he was 0 for 19 as he did when he hit four home runs in a single game.   I've always understood that there is no way that we can do anything that will make God love us less than He does right now, but it took me years to realize that nothing I do will ever make Him love me more than he already does.

I'm pretty sure you haven't heard this but song but it has been one of my favorites since childhood and it certainly sums up what I'm trying to say.  You'll recognize quickly that it is a song about baseball but it is an amazing metaphor about God.   And many times a year I  have to remind myself that "He loves me, no matter how I play..."

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

In the Light of Eternity

Do you ever get stuck on something simple and stupid?  Ever obsessed about something that really didn't matter much?  Or ever find yourself in a slump over something that you can't shake that really isn't as serious as you are making it out to be?

One of my favorite phrases as a teenager (I know, I know, I was a bit precocious and kinda hyper-spiritualized for a teenager) was "In the light of eternity, who gives a rip."  (and yes, my personality was also fairly formed by that time... .because I loved the irony of the phrase).   To remind myself of the phrase, my high school class ring has "eternity" engraved on one side.  I can show it to you -- I carry it on my key ring.  On one side it says "Cowboys Class of 81" and on the other, "Eternity."

It still comes to my mind once and a while when I am stewing over something.   I ask myself if I will remember this issue in a year or two.  The answer is usually no.  But even with the big stuff I remind myself that when life is over that everything that happens here will pale in comparison to an eternity in heaven.

One of my favorite songs paints a picture of God standing at the end of my life ... where he is RIGHT NOW while I'm confused and lost.   It talks about how one day I will be with Him, looking back and realizing how the all the pieces of our life fit together... even the ones that are troubling and don't make sense right now.

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit 
It's my goal that when ever I am in the thick of it I will remember to view things in the light of eternity and remember that my future is God's memory.

If you've never heard the song you should check it out.  It's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

June is the New January

So.... did you make New Year's Resolutions?  I started 2017 with a bang!  I had a brand new bullet journal and I had all kinds of goals that I wrote down in that journal.  And January was awesome.  I did great.  February I was rocking it.  March was still pretty good.   And then life happened.  Bart had his surgery which pretty much killed the month of April and then the 4th of May I had my steroid shot which did everything except relieve my pain.   So May was a mess.

But you know what?  New things can happen any day of the year.  A new year starts every single day.... it doesn't have to be January 1 for us to start something new.  So I have decided that June is the new January and I dusted off the bullet journal, created some pages from June, and even have worked on the concept of the level 10 life.   Have you seen it?

You give yourself a score and set goals in ten areas:

  1. Family 
  2. Personal Development 
  3. Spirituality 
  4. Finances 
  5. Career 
  6. Social Life 
  7. Fun 
  8. Giving and Contribution
  9. Physical Environment 
  10. Health and fitness 
Bart and I are working on setting three goals for each of these for the summer.  It's fun to be back where I'm not in a slump and planning ahead and setting goals for myself.

June 1 began our new Fiscal Year at work.... and my friend Jeff is here to be our new COO!   So why can't it begin my New Year?  It can.  In fact June 6th can be your New Year's Day because it won't come around for another year.

So if you feel like you're in a slump, declare to day to be day one of the next year.   Happy New Year!

Monday, June 05, 2017

What Goes In The Middle?

Do you have expectations for other people that aren't getting met?   We all have expectations.. for our friends, coworkers, spouses, etc.   I know that this is a constant theme in my life.   For a long time I've been talking about giving people grace and believing the best in people, but yesterday via video Andy Stanley explained it better than I have ever been able to.    In fact, I am so convinced that all of us learning this will make a difference that I have created a graphic specifically for this blog (something I rarely take time to do).

The idea is simple.  We have expectations for people and then we have our experience, which is different than our expectations.  Example:  Son says he will be home with the car at 9.  That is our expectation.  He arrives at 11.  That is our experience.

You get it, right?  We have expectations that don't match our experience.

But, the important thing to know is that WE GET TO CHOOSE what goes in the middle.   We can choose to assume the worst or we can believe the best.   From 9-11 we can be saying to ourselves, "That ungrateful ______ is disobeying us again.  When he gets home he is really going to get it this time" or we can say, "I wonder what happened that has made it hard for him to get home?  I'm sure he will have a valid explanation."

Depending on your son, that might not be a good illustration of the point, but the truth is this:   If we offer grace and love and trust in the middle, it can't help but make our relationships better.

I read a study once (and yes, I am really wishing I would have bookmarked it so I could quote it) that pointed out that those who believe others are doing the best they can have better lives.  Read that again -- it isn't the people who we are believing the best about who have better lives, but us ourselves if we believe the best in people.

The next time your expectation does not match your experience, think about this and choose to believe the best in others instead of assume the worst.

Doing that on a regular basis -- offering grace, trust, and love to others -- may very well change your life!

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Saturday Summary

Wow.  It's been since May 13th since I have written a Saturday Summary and I apologize to my future self for that.  I really do these for the sake of looking back several years down the road to see what I was doing or to find a date.

We have had a busy three weeks.  On May 19th we headed to Minneapolis, St. Paul where we got to spend some time with kids and grandkids.  We also got to spend a significant amount of time with my mom who, as you know, is awesome.    She was able to have a few meals with us and we spent Saturday morning reminiscing .... well she reminisced and I listened.

We had a great time hanging out with Kyle and Christy and their three kids.   They are such great parents -- but I get exhausted just watching Christy care for 3 under three.   It was fun watching Silas interact with his sisters and getting to know their personalities.  

We also got to see almost all of our kids.  On Saturday we had lunch with Sadie and her boyfriend Matt, Leon and his girlfriend Danielle, and Courtney and her son (our grandson) Isaac.   We then picked up my mom and headed for an indoor park where Mike, Rand, Jimmy, Tony, and Kyle's family joined the crew above.  We almost got kicked out a couple times.

I don't have a good camera any more so I just have pictures from my phone, but a few above are for your enjoyment (and my future enjoyment in years to come).

I was especially blessed to join my mom for church and Brunswick and see so many of my friends.  I try not to miss them too much but seeing them again definitely made me remember how much they mean to me.

And I got to see my friend Sonia and her new baby and have lunch with my buddy Dennis....

We packed a LOT into 4 days.

The two weeks after that have been kind of crazy.  While we were gone Dominyk hit a deer with Bart's car, totaling it, and we discovered that our youngest has been skipping classes.   We have dealt with both of those situations and Bart has a new car, and the school year is over, so our youngest is no longer skipping class.   That's one way to solve the issue.

At work I've had an important project i've been working on and we had a full board meeting yesterday.  Last night we had our annual award's ceremony which was awesome -- so fun to see the progress the kids have made over the months or years that they have been with us.

I am super excited that my former boss from Bethany and his wife are arriving tomorrow and that on Monday he will start working as our Chief Operating Officer.   I don't know many men finer than he, and I can't wait to work with him again.

I've learned through my life that God is faithful through the ups and downs and that even when things seem dark, the sun is about to come up.   That pretty much describes our last three weeks!

And today we land at a pretty happy place.   Until the next round.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

How are You Wired?

A constant theme in all of my blogging and in all of my life is the theme of me being in charge of my life.  I have mentioned to you before that my mom still wrestles with these issue at the age of 88.  She talks about giving something to the Lord and then taking it back again and again.   It may be that she and I are similar (genes do that) or it could mean that that is the human condition.

I've been thinking that the reason that this particular struggle is so stressful is that we were created by a God who made us to take our direction from Him.   Even though He gave us a free will, He made us to follow that still small voice inside us where the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing.

But somehow things have gotten kinda twisted.  We end up working really hard to fill life up with things that are complete distractions from that voice.   With the pursuit of happiness, however we define it, we cram our lives with the unnecessary.  We buy possessions that require more of our time and energy to maintain them.   Some of us (I'm guilty) spend more time looking at our smart phones than we do looking at any other person in our lives.   Our priorities have gotten twisted somehow and we find ourselves lost.

If you want to depress yourself, google "effects of stress on the body" and see how many of those physical ailments you are experiencing.   I just did it and I'm not at all pleased with what I discovered.

Stress is caused by many things, but I wonder if removing that one stressor -- the constant need to follow my own path and get what I want as opposed to listening for God's voice and doing what He wants -- would results in a lot of other stressors going away.

Just a thought :-)

Today's song has this line:
And I'm so tired of chasing dreams ....  When I am wired to let you lead
You're wired to let God lead.   I'm wired to let God lead.  We are wired to let God lead.  So let's do that!