Tuesday, August 22, 2017

But I'm a MESS!

Have you ever been in a situation when you have been asked to do something big and your response is, "Woah.  Not me!  I'm a mess!  I can't possibly be used by God to do anything really cool.  Do you know what I've done?  Do you know who I am?"

God showed Jeremiah through a metaphor what He can do with us.   Jeremiah is quoted this way in the Message in Chapter 18
So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.  5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does?"
The answer, of course, is "yup, God can do with us, just what the  potter does with clay.  He can take us and and mold it and remake as many times as necessary as we gradually become better than we dreamed.  It’s our job to be patient because  sometimes he needs to do it again and again before it is just right.

So we can come to God, knowing that He is the Great Potter and sing:
 Now I'm just a beggar in the presence of a King.....  I wish I could bring so much more

But if it's true.....You use broken things .....

Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours



Monday, August 21, 2017

More or Less


Self promotion is human nature.   Be the best you can be.   Make sure everyone knows that you are getting better... improving, climbing the ladder of success.  That is what our society teaches us.

But in John chapter 3, John the Baptist was answering people's questions and making sure people were not confusing him with Jesus.    He says, "He must become greater, I must become less."

How does that translate into who we are today and what we should be doing as followers of Christ?  It means we get out of the way.  When we are tempted to insist that we are the center, we remind ourselves that that isn't how it is supposed to work.  It's supposed to be that every day, the closer we get to Him, the more like Him and the less like ourselves we become..

That's powerful stuff.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Summary for August 19, 2017

Ever since I have started doing Saturday Summaries I have felt as though weeks go by way faster.  I'm sure it's my imagination, but it feels like it.

Sunday was a good day - - gym, church, lunch at home with the kids, the grandkids and a "friend."  Sunday night I went back up to Brookneal where I stayed and put in three very full days -- Monday and Tuesday in Lynchburg and Wednesday in Brookneal.   We had our all staff meeting and several of my coworkers bought my book, which was very encouraging.  And I love all staff meetings when we are all together.  It's just awesome.

Thursday I don't think I left the house here in Danville -- I stayed at my desk and caught up on all the work I was behind on.  Friday I was back up in Lynchburg for another full day of meetings and today after the gym and coffee, I have been at my desk again, trying to catch up.

Not sure much happened this week on the family front.   Dominyk moved his stuff back from Brookneal after resigning from his job there since he goes back to college full time Monday.  Salinda has been working 6 nights a week.  Gabby is loving 2nd grade.   I tried to take the grandkids to a baseball game last night but it ended up being a epic failure -- rain, delayed start, a "why won't you buy me candy 2 year old fit" and broken bobbleheads.   Sigh.

I had several conversations with my mom this week.  She is doing great and is just awesome.  I miss her.

I think that's all.   Sorry it's boring.

Buy my novel :-)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tempted to Hide Under the Covers?


Have you ever just wanted to stay in bed all day?  Have you wished that you didn't have to face whatever is ahead of you?  Are you tempted to pull the covers over your head and hide?

I love the way that the Message translate this portion of Scripture from Isaiah 53:
The Master, God, has given me    a well-taught tongue,So I know how to encourage tired people.    He wakes me up in the morning,Wakes me up, opens my ears    to listen as one ready to take orders.The Master, God, opened my ears,    and I didn’t go back to sleep,    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
God calls us each day to encourage tired people.  He is the one who wakes up every morning (even if it is with the assistance of an alarm clock, a screaming toddler, or a teenager or young adult who is just getting home :-)  

I used to attend a church decades ago and over and over again people in that church would thank God for waking them up in the morning and giving them one more day to live.  I loved (and still love) the idea that if God woke me up today and gave me another day of life that I need to be grateful for simply the gift of one more day and give that day back to him.

So God wakes us up, opens our years and wants us to listen and be ready to take orders.  And here is the choice we have each day…. we can listen carefully and get up and obey or we can go back to sleep and put the covers over our heads.

Literally that might not be possible.  Nobody can spend their entire day in bed (although I have three adult children right now who are testing that theory, but I digress).  But certainly metaphorically we have two choices:

We can wake up, listen to what God is calling us to do, take orders and get busy, or we can pull the covers back over our heads and go back to sleep.

The choice is yours today and every day.  

Keith Green wrote a powerful song that I memorized back in my teens.  He always wrote and sang with such conviction…. 

Oh, can't you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark, 
That the church just can't fight,
'cause it's asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave,
And you!
You can't even get out of bed!

You can hear Keith himself sing it here.   If this doesn’t wake you up, I’m not sure what will.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

You've Got the POWER!


Feeling powerful today?  I guess some days we feel it and some days we don't.  But have you ever asked yourself how much power you really do have?

If you have been a parent, you watch the "power" that you have over your children fade by the day from their birth to adulthood.   Sometimes that influence is allowed back in when they become adults, but often not, and if it has always been about power when they are growing up, that probably will never happen.

If you have been a boss, you realize after a while that if you are trying to yield "power" over your employees, you will quickly lose their respect and loyalty.

If you have tried to change a bad habit, you may have quickly realized that you really don't even have power over yourself.

BUT when it comes to fighting the enemy and doing big things that God has called us to do, we do have the power.  We have the power over the enemy.

I memorized this in the King James as a child:
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This is what it says in the Message:
See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” 
So as you can see, you have the power!  The enemy is not going to win whatever battle you are facing whether it be the battle for the hearts and minds of your children or grandchildren, the battle to destroy a team that is about to do great things, or the battle that rages inside of you.  

In fact, Jesus even said that we could speak to mountains and they would move.  Now that's POWER!

You have the power!

I have loved this song for decades.  I still have it completely memorized.  I hope it runs through your mind all day

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting God's Attention


Have you wondered if there is a way to get God to respond?    Have you ever tried everything you could think of .... prayed, fasted, denied yourself ... and heard nothing?

The people during Isaiah's time had the same problem.   They asked God about it in Isaiah 58.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
And God answers:
“...on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  
And then God tells them what gets His attention:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelterwhen you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
And He tells them what happens if they participate in the kind of activities that matter to Him:
Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then righteousness  will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;  you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I."

So we have our answer.  If we want to do something that God will notice, it's not about self-denial and fasting, though those are good things.  But God says  that the kind of "fast" that matters to him isn't what we don't do, but what we do.  It is about losing the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, breaking yokes, sharing food, providing shelter, clothing the naked.... that's the point.

We often sing and talk about letting our lights shine ... like we read in Matthew 5:16... so that others may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.  But shining bright through how we treat those lest fortunate is not only so that others will see us -- it is the way that God Himself taught us to get His attention.  

I encourage you to try it.... shine brightly in the ways He describes above and you might be surprised at how quickly He pays attention.













Sunday, August 13, 2017

What Are You Afraid Of?


Are you dreading something this week?  A conversation with an employee or a boss?  A presentation or a speech you have to give that you feel ill equipped for?

Or maybe it's something more serious.  Maybe you have a doctor's appointment that might bring bad news, or a funeral of a loved one.

I have several things this week that are making me anxious.  Or maybe I should say they WERE making me anxious until a couple of things happened.

The first is that I attended the Global Leadership Summit last week and heard several speakers.  One talked of going to a prison to offer forgiveness to the people who killed nearly every member of her family in the Rwandan genocide.    Another spoke of losing members of his staff who were killed by corrupt police officers while defending a poor taxi driver on the streets of Kenya.    A third discussed his work in defending the mentally ill, children and prisoners on death row.

Suddenly the things I was dreading become really really small in comparison.

The second thing that happened was singing a couple of hymns in church yesterday.  The first is very familiar and the second verse struck me.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

I suddenly realized that God prospers my work and He will defend me.  And that He will give me the courage to face whatever I'm dreading this week....

Life takes courage.  Courage for the big things, and courage for the little things.   And God is calling those of us who are willing to stand and say "I'll go" .... regardless of where we must go or how anxious the situation makes me. 

And then we finished our worship yesterday with this song -- which if you have never heard you should listen to more than once.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Summary August 12, 2017




It was quite a week .... busy, productive and a good week for the Fletchers!

I always like to start with my work report, because I love my job.  It's a combination of an amazing team to work with, a missions that fits perfectly with my life's mission, and big ideas flowing all the time.   This week I had back to back meetings Monday and Tuesday, created and worked through a portion of a 4 page to do list on Wednesday and then headed to the Global Leadership Summit being simulcast at a church in Roanoke.  Our whole leadership team, all nine of us, got to go together and it was phenomenal.   I have been several years now, and I always leave with more ideas and knowledge than I thought was possible to accumulate in two days.

As a family, we started last week with Bart and I going to worship with my coworker, Crystal.  We were by far the minority (as in the only white people) in a congregation of welcoming, warm people who truly blessed us by their hospitality.  And I got to hear Crystal sing and that girl can SING.   It was a great time.  We had lunch together alone afterwards (the kids had decided to go to Mt. Vernon) and by the time we got home it was late afternoon.  My choice to have a long nap messed up my sleep schedule for a day or two, but the nap itself was glorious.  Sunday was completed with a game night at church where I lost repeatedly to a certain unnamed person who insisted on bragging.

Wednesday was the first day of school for Wilson and Gabby.  It was Wilson's last first day of school -- the end of an era.   And Gabby started 2nd grade with great enthusiasm.  In a letter that day reminding Salinda that Gabby would not be around to help keep Carlos safe, I encouraged her to be more vigilant so that nothing happened to him.   That afternoon she feel asleep and he chopped off his hair -- all the way down to the scalp.   So it was Carlos' first day of short hair in his life.... she had been nurturing that hair for almost 3 years.   Good lesson for all of us.... and he is still REALLY cute.

So I returned last night to have dinner out with Bart and tell him everything I learned at the summit.... and watch the best innings of a Reds game.... We won, but it wasn't because they didn't almost lose it at the end.... must have been because I had already gone to bed.

So here we are at the weekend and I'm behind on almost everything there is to be behind on, but that, as you know, is the story of my life.




Friday, August 11, 2017

Being a Brave and Hopeful Leader


Ever attended a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit?  If not you are missing out on a whole lot of really good stuff.   I am here for I believe the fifth time .... started in 2013 ... and I walk away blessed and challenged.

The day started with song that is nowhere to be found on the internet, which is tragic because I loved it!   Hopefully eventually it will be available to the world.  ((If you can find it, let me know!).   I'm not going to try to sing it, for which you should be grateful :-), but the chorus went something like this, 
We call on the rebels, the fighters, the champions of change... come be leaders, unites, we call on the brave.
The song has not stopped going through my mind ... it was powerful.

In the afternoon, we heard a presentation called "Being a Brave and Hopeful Leader. It was articulately delivered by Brian Stevenson, who Wikipedia will tell you is " an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.   He wrote a book called, "Just Mercy" that I have already ordered.   He made four main points which I will explain from my context and my own filters.

1)  Leadership involves proximity.   You can't be effective from a distance.  You have to know the people you are serving because problems can't be solved from a  distance.  There is power in proximity. 
Leading from a distance can often result in leading by fear or anger, and that will lead to dangerous places.

2)  We have to understand and change the narratives we believe and when we do that we can be liberated.   Questions like "what are the narratives that I believe about myself... about the poor ... about a particular race ... about the place I work ...." are significant.  

3)  Leaders can never give up hope.  You've heard me say this in this blog countless times, but it is really the key to leadership.  Leaders hold out hope.   Hopelessness is the enemy of justice, the enemy of leadership.  

4)  Leadership means willing to do uncomfortable things.  Walking into situations and and embracing  those who are broken and surrounded by brokenness is the only way to lead.   The first step to this is recognize our own brokenness.

The work that Brian Stevenson does leads him to death row.  It has him defending the mentally ill, children who are tried as adults when they shouldn't be, people who have been wrongly accused. So when he talks about the four principles above, he lives them out every day. 

So I'm starting my day with these words running through my head -- I hope they will run through yours as well:

We call on the rebels, the fighters, the champions of change... come be leaders, unites, we call on the brave. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Never Said No to Myself

Self-discipline is absolutely not fun.   I used to think that people who were great athletes were people who loved to work out.   But the more I hear podcasts interviewing them the more I realize they don't love all the hard work they do.   They love the pay off, but the hard work, not so much.   In fact, one of the golfers I heard recently said he has never had one time since a back injury that he has wanted to do his night-time routine of exercise.  Not one time in years.

But the opposite doesn't work out so well.  Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes (The Message) about how it went for him when he abandoned self-discipline.
Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day’s work!  Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.
Most of us will probably end up somewhere in the middle between people who become olympic gold medalists and people who never say no to themselves.   But it appears that the payoff comes to those who practice self-discipline.

After the writer of the Hebrews listed all of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, the Message paraphrases Hebrews 12 like this:
 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
So there you have it.  Time to say no to ourselves for the sake of the goal ahead of us.. and keeping our eyes on Jesus is what will take us there!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Giving Back: What if we are doing it all wrong?

You've heard it all before -- how we need to give back to society, how we need to pay it forward.  How it is important for us to make a difference in the world.  This idea is based on the concept that someone else somewhere did something for you so you should do something for someone else.

But it may be that we are missing a step.   I don't think we give back by giving to other people.  I don't think we give back by paying it forward.  I don't think we give back by making a difference in the world.   At least not directly.

What if it went like this:   God does something for us (in fact, this is how it all began) so we give back to HIM.   Then He uses us to give to someone else.  It's in the giving it back to Him that we have four things:

1)  The wisdom to know who the person/people are that need our help;

2)  The resources (love, joy, peace, time, money etc) to give to others;

3)  The courage to do so when it might not be popular in the eyes of others; and

4)  The strength to carry it through even when it doesn't seem to be making a difference.

So let's join Mandisa and say to God, "I'm giving it all back to you."   Let's pray that God will use what we give back to him to allow us to give to others.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Another Episode of Survivor

Have you had times in your life where you feel like you are in the middle of an episode of survivor?  Have you had challenges that have come at you one right after the other, back to back, until you aren't sure you can take one more?  Have you felt betrayed by those you trusted and left in a state of confusion?

All of those things are part of the human condition.   Our response to a season like that can define our character and definitely determines how well we will handle it the next time.  This is how resiliency is built .... by surviving one thing after another until we have confidence that we can handle the next thing... whatever the next thing might be.

I confess to being in a slump the past few days, but I know that with God's help I will get through this time and head into better days.  I also know that the better days will pass and there will be some tougher days after that.  But the key is this:  I know that because He has done it in the past, God will take care of those as well.

Just like muscles are strengthened when we use them, resiliency is built when we rely on God to take us through the ups and downs of life.  So whether or not you feel like it today, you are a survivor.

I was introduced to this song recently and I want to share it with you today.  I'm not sure who needs to hear it, but I hope it speaks to you.  I've listened to several times the past few days.




Saturday, August 05, 2017

Saturday Summary August 5, 2017

Well that week flew by!  Let's see.... Bart and I did go to Greensboro but we did not get haircuts.  We did, however, have a very nice lunch.

Church Sunday was good..... went out to lunch with Salinda and her kids (Wilson had to work and Dom had to take him) and the rest of the day was pretty low key.  I drove back to Brookneal Sunday night and then worked really hard, pushing myself more than I have in a long time.  Wednesday night Bart and I met Wilson for dinner.....

Went to the gym every morning Thursday-Saturday, had coffee with my friend Cathy on Thursday, and then dinner out with Bart Thursday night.  

Friday -- back to Lynchburg for more meetings and then back here.... actually cooked dinner last night.

Today we headed to a state park for a work picnic and here I am typing this.

Not feeling that great about life at the moment.   Fell off the wagon with the diet a couple days ago.  Trying to hop on quickly but Bart made these chocolate chip cookies....

Feeling a bit resentful, which I need to fix.

Not feeling like working for sure but have things I should be doing.

Hmm.....   I think I'll stop writing now :-)

Friday, August 04, 2017

What's in a Name?


Take a minute to think of a name.  It could be the name of a place, the name of a person, the name of a pet.  

When you think of that name, what comes to your mind?  If it is a person, place or pet that you love, all kinds of good stuff come with that name.  Memories, pleasant emotions... possibly smells and tastes if that person or place (probably not pet) is associated with something good that you have had to eat.  Or maybe you think something that you can touch -- the feel of their fur when you pet them (this would be a pet thing, not a person thing :-)

I'm asking this because I have been puzzling over something over the past several weeks.  I've been wondering why there are so many songs about the name of Jesus.   Why get excited about a name?  I also started asking myself, "Why is Jesus the Name above all names?"

And then it hit me.  It is because of what the name represents.  Just as the name "Gizmo" represented a furry, faithful, walking companion to my husband for over a decade before he died, the names of people, places and pets are more than just a word.  The name is about the feelings and the memories that come when we recall that name.

What comes to your mind when you say the name Jesus?  I will let you answer that question.

But figuring that out has now helped me to understand and appreciates songs like the one below.

Because of all that Jesus is to me, all those memories, feelings and all that the name represents, I can now sing.... what a beautiful Name it is ... what a powerful Name it is.




Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Wisest Man in the World Concluded....

I have a lot of work to do today.  Just like all of us, there are ebbs and flows to our work…. and right now is a very busy time.

I like to work, in fact, my husband will tell you that I like working too much.  But there are times when even I can get weary.

But here is what Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 (Yes, you guessed it, the Message).
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. 
Because I am a preacher, I can see three lessons in this simple verse:

1)  When you are choosing your job, pick well.   My friend Micheal, who calls me pumpkin (I know, Inappropriate, right) taught me something valuable here.  He says that he used to give career advice to college students and tell them that if they wanted meaningful work they should find something that makes them angry and then find a way to get paid for fixing it.   That's good advice.  Or, if you aren't angry about anything, pick something you enjoy.

2)  Find ways to make your work meaningful and enjoyable.  If you are working for an organization that has a mission you are passionate about, it isn't hard to make work meaningful.  All you gotta do is remember the mission.   But if you have a job that is more routine, there are ways to make that enjoyable as well.   I have a long history of doing this since my first job as a part time secretary when I was 16.  I had an envelope in my drawer called the "secretarial olympics" where I kept stats of how fast I could stuff envelopes, put labels on envelopes, type up case notes .... and then I tried to break my record.   Keep yourself motivated with little tricks that make things more fun.   

3)  Enjoy the people you work with.  Find things to like about them.  Do things with them socially to strengthen the relationship.  It's way fun to go to work if you are excited to see the people you work with.

There's nothing better for you to do than to enjoy your work.   Think about it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ready to Quit?


When was the last time you said to someone else or to yourself, "I quit!"  Was it a relationship,  a job, or an internal struggle that took you to the point that you just couldn't do it any more?

There are times when it is completely necessary to quit.  But there are many times in our lives that we  just need to keep going .... where God is asking for us to endure just a little longer ... when He knows that just around the next bend there is the miracle we have been waiting for.

In Psalm 188, the King James Bible says, "His mercy endureth forever" over and over and over again.  If you are like me you may have memorized that in the KJV or possibly the NIV that says "His love endures forever."  When I was listening to it in The Message it caught my attention because it says, "His love never quits."  And, as you know, those words repeat themselves throughout the chapter.

I started thinking about this verse today in regards to quitting and reminded myself that when I feel like quitting, my motivation can be that God's love never quits.  It never runs out.   It never fails.

And maybe, with his love sustaining me, I can endure.... I can hang in there .... I don't have to quit.

And you don't either :-)