Thursday, December 13, 2018

You Know What Happens When You Assume?


I wonder how much hurt in life could be avoided if everyone followed simple rules.   Rules like, "If your brother offends you.... go to HIM."

Or "Is it good?  Is it Kind?  Is it Necessary?   if not, don't say it.  Or, better put in the Four Way Test of Rotary that we should use to evaluate what we say:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

or how about the rule about not assuming..... or about erring on the side of grace, believing the best in others, and giving people the benefit of the doubt?

This is a rough season for me.   There are four situations in particular where I cannot defend myself.  I cannot explain.   I cannot say a word publicly    And I wonder what assumptions are being made about me.  I hear rumors of what people are saying about me but I can't explain any of it.

And in all of those situations, there is really a lot more to the story.  Further more,  I don't have choices.  People are assuming that I am making decisions, that I am choosing to do certain things, and yet, I'm not.  The choice is not with me.

As you know I'm not overly sensitive, but I am frustrated enough tonight to remind all of us not to talk about people if we haven't talked to them.   To remind us that when we assume, we should clarify directly with the source before passing those assumptions on.   And finally to remind each of us that Grace Wins Every Time.

I don't care all that much about what people think -- I had to give that up a long time ago.   We have had to move beyond that as our children have made choices over the years.  But others aren't as resilient or as strong, and we need to protect others from the pain by following these rules.   

My way of dealing with all of this through the past few months has been is to check my own motives, make sure I am extending forgiveness and grace, and ask the Holy Spirit to correct me where I need to be corrected.  And I've been reminded to make sure that as I'm making assumptions about others that I don't repeat them as truth.

Maybe the purpose of all this (if there is one) is for me to check myself and remind myself to treat others the way I want to be treated.

I don't know if this was  helpful to anyone -- but I didn't write it for you.  I wrote it for me. Is that OK?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Where is the Church?!?


Over 20 years ago I realized that nearly all of the issues that we face in society can step back to a child entering adulthood without significant healthy relationships with people who can love and mentor them.   You've heard me quote the statistics of what happens when kids age out of foster care for a really long time.

Let me share some with you:

1) Twenty percent of youth who were in foster care will become instantly homeless upon aging out.

2) There is less than a 3% chance of a child who ages out of foster care achieving higher education.

3) Only one out of every two older youth will have employment by the age of twenty-four. 

4) Twenty-five percent of older youth who age out of foster care are affected by PTSD. 

5) Seven out of ten girls who age out will become pregnant before the age of twenty-one.

There are other statistics out there — statistics about incarceration and sex trafficking, for example.   And they are all a direct result of kids entering adulthood without the support they need.

You will hear more and more about a regional initiative that we are spearheading at my work over the next several years.  It involves insuring that the number of kids enter adulthood without positive relationships will get smaller and smaller in our area.

It’s a cool initiative …. it involves government, private agencies, and the church working together.   Each month we have something we call “The Gathering” in Lynchburg (you’re welcome to come).   We invite people from agencies and churches to come talk about how we can work together to make sure that kids are safe, families are strong, and the church community is faithfully supporting them.

Last month we had our meeting and there was only one person representing a church in the room.   The private agencies were there having been told that this was a collaboration…. and they showed up.   But one of them commented that this happens frequently — they head to meetings saying that the church is involved, but nobody shows up.

“Where is the Church?” he asked.

And so I ask you the same question.


Where is the Church?

Get Busy!


We all know what James 1:27 says (or we should) :-)

But do you know what James 1:26 says?  I thought I did, but when I heard the two verses together I was a little surprised.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 
27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

So what’s the opposite of true religion — not controlling the tongue.   Yikes.  Ouch.  Dang.  Yuck.  Oh No!

I wonder though if the Bible were written in our day if it might say, “a tight rein on their tongues and their fingers” because it seems like a lot of what we are saying lately we are saying by typing.

When I was thinking about why James put those two things together I wonder if it just means that when we spend so much time yapping we don’t have time to do what God is really wanting us to do — take care of others.   And certainly if we keep a tight rein on our tongues and fingers, that may help us to be kept away from the pollution — because when we talk (or type) we often hear (and read) stuff that is not helpful.

I’m writing this to myself more than anyone else and giving myself a talking to.  " Shut up and get busy, Claudia.  There’s work to do!"

I am blessed to be involved (and get paid to be involved) in doing what God accept as pure and faultless.   The issue of taking care of orphans (or, I prefer to use the word vulnerable children) is what wakes me up every morning and keeps me going.  It’s also sometimes what keeps me up at night because this issue effects everything.  But I have gotten distracted lately and caught up doing way too much talking about things that matter very little and I need to shut up and get busy.

Every Christmas season I share this song because it is so central to what I believe we are all called to do.

I hope it makes you tear up a bit and then get busy as we do our part to make sure that kids like this little boy have what they need most in life — a healthy family.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

I Made a Difficult Decision


Today I decided to head a different direction with my books.   While it has been a fun 10 years of writing, self-publishing, and trying to sell them, I am going to start discontinuing paper-books as I run out of the latest order.

What?  Why?  You may ask.

Well, I love to write books.   I thoroughly enjoyed writing the books I wrote, particularly fiction.  In fact, I may have another couple novels in my head....and I love pouring  them out..... In fact, both of my novels were written in less than three weeks.   BUT (you knew it was coming).... I HATE everything after that.  My writing needs a lot of editing ..... and I have been blessed to find volunteer editors, but that process is a lot of work for them and I tried doing it without them on this last book and the result was awful.....

I also hate getting them ready for print.  It's laborious, time consuming, and I always end up messing up.   So that process is irritating to me and not fun.

Finally, I really don't enjoy marketing them.   I don't do it enough and most people don't know they are here, so they basically just take up space. I lied to myself and told myself that I could sell them at conferences, but the last two conferences that has proven to not be true.  A lot of work to pack them up, unpack them, and not sell any.

I also don't enjoy keeping track of the orders or getting them ready to ship (although Bart does a lot of that for me.)  I find that all extremely annoying.

The other interesting part is that I actually make more money selling them in digital form than I do in paperback.... with zero hassle.

So, this week I sold the last copy of "Okay, Which One of You Took My Sanity" in written form.   It was a fun book to write and I think it is practical and has great advice and is also entertaining.  But in 6 years I have sold only about 300 books.  

I'm thinking that I will probably discontinue the others when the orders are out as well.  Just getting bored with the whole thing.

I wish that writing this would provide an uprising that would change my mind, but that's basically a fantasy.

I may write another book some day..... but I think I'll just sell it digitally.   If I write another one (and assuming that both my editors are up for it.

All that being said.... my Black Friday Sale continues until Sunday.... so use the coupon Black Friday and you'll save $6.00 on your order.  The online store is here.  You can't buy them cheaper anywhere else.

So, how was that post for a day brightener?  Sometimes I crack myself up.  

I bet you're saying to yourself, "Now that's three minutes of my life that I'll never get back!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Got any Distractions?

You’ve heard the story.

In Luke 14 Jesus told a parable of a guy who planned a really awesome banquet and invited many guests. Though we don’t know exactly who those guests were, I’m assuming he invited the people closest to him first.  Friends, family, coworkers.   And he probably invited some distinguished guests as well — people who were important and prominent in that community.

But one by one they turned down the invitation because of something they deemed as more important.  One of them had just bought some land.  Another some oxen.   Another one had just gotten married.   They all had things that were more important to them than the banquet.

So the man told his servants to go out and find people who had time for him and for the amazing things that he was offering.  The parable concludes with the man saying those folks that I initially invited will never get a taste of what I planned for them.

I’m sure that for decades theologians have been discussing what this Scripture means, but to me it seems pretty simple:   God has cool things planned for us.   He invites us to join Him at HIs table, where we can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  But too often we have distractions that keep us from showing up.    And these distractions cost us the privilege of enjoying all of what God has for us.

I have to share this song, simply because it always comes to mind when I hear this parable (and because I occasionally like to send videos that border on annoying just for fun:)


But this video is super powerful.  I’ve shared it last January, but if you haven’t watched it you should…  It gives me goose bumps.  It’s a great way of looking at the table we are invited to and the importance not only of coming to Jesus, but coming together with so many others to feast with HIm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Got any Strength?


Over the last several weeks I have found myself in a mess not of my own making that involves our youngest son.  In fact, it is a mess that I spent a couple years trying to prevent.   It is a mess that affects many aspects of our lives and has hurt many people.  It is a mess that has kept me off Facebook and a mess that will require me to continuously offer grace, mercy and forgiveness as I ask others to extend that to our son and to us.

For those of you who have been curious, this situation is why I left Facebook and stopped posting things about my fundraiser and my exercise.  I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter that I hadn’t earned and for weeks I couldn’t post anything online for fear it would be used against us.   

We have been through many situations in our journey where our children have made huge mistakes that have damaged them and messed up their lives.  There have been times when their decisions have tarnished our reputations slightly and there have been people who have been harmed as a result of their choices.

However, this is the first time that the mistake of one of our children has hit so close to home.  It has had an effect on nearly everyone that we know in the city in which we live.  We are heartbroken and grieving and yet because our son is the one who screwed up, we haven’t been able to say much.

I tell you this simply to encourage anyone in the middle of situations you did not create and finds themselves wondering if you’re strong enough to handle the fallout.  You need to know this:   in God’s strength you are.

Slowly but surely, God is giving us the strength to make it day by day, to forgive ourselves for things we could have or should have done to possibly prevent this, and to forgive, love, and extend grace and mercy to our son and anyone else who has contributed to our pain.

This morning as I was driving in to work I heard this song.  I have heard it multiple times but the first line caught me off guard.  It was as though I was speaking directly to God.

“You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

Well, forgive me
Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do”

I have had many thoughts the past two months that are similar to those.   Thoughts like, “We’ve been through a lot, God, but this one — this might be more than I can handle.”

But the song does not end there.  It says:

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

The good news is that He has been.  His strength has been made perfect in my weakness (I Corinthians 12:9).  I’m definitely not sharing this to brag or to suggest that I am special.    I have had days where I have stared off into space, replaying this situation over and over in my brain, unable to do even move.  I have absolutely NOT been strong enough, on my own, to make it this time.

But God has.   And if He has done so for me, He will do this for you… no matter what mess you find yourself in. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

Got any Figs?

This parable in Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

This parable n Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

https://youtu.be/m84URv4Sgxc

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Got any Lions?


I was rereading the story Daniel in the Lion’s Den this morning.   We look back at that as if Daniel was so brave heading into the den.  I’m not sure he felt that brave as he headed into the den.

Grant it, he was brave to obey God, knowing the consequences, when he chose to disobey the king, but I don’t know that, when it came right down to it, he headed into the lion’s den confident that God would protect Him.  Maybe he did, but the lions were still big, strong, and probably hungry…. and he may have been very nervous.

I wonder if he was scared the whole time, or if after the first few minutes her realized God was going to protect him.   I can see it both ways — he was in the den for five to ten minutes, and still alive, so maybe he relaxed and said, “God’s got this” and took a nap.   We don’t know for sure.

It could very well be that he stressed out all night long, pinning himself up against the wall of the den keeping an eye on each lion, waiting to see what was going to happen.  He could have been a nervous wreck all night.

So what are our lessons from this story?

1)  Even if we are facing extreme consequences, we need to be obedient.

2)  We have a choice when we are in the midst of a scary or uncertain time, where the enemy is close at hand.   We can relax and remember that God’s got us, or we can fret and pace and hold on with white knuckles waiting for the trial to be over.

The cool thing is that God isn’t going to stop being God if we stop being confident in him and stop having faith.  He’s just going to keep on doing what He does.  But the quality of life that we can have during that time is our choice.

So whatcha going to do the next time you’re thrown into the lions den?  Are you going to immediately recognize that God is protecting you and relax knowing that the trial will some day be over, or are you going be freaked out every single moment, stressing out and questioning whether or not God is going to continue to come through?

THAT is up to you.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Got Any Wants?


In Mark Chapter 10, Jesus and his disciples are walking in a huge crowd down the road when they hear a voice coming from the side of the road from a blind beggar.  Everyone kept telling him to shut up but he kept crying out, “Have mercy on me.”

So Jesus calls him over and says this very important words:

"What do you want me to do for you?

Bartimaeus responds, “I want to see” and Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him.  He gets up, and, interestingly, instead of running home to tell his family or friends, or going off to look at places or people he hasn’t seen in a long time (we don’t know how long) he follows Jesus.

If Jesus was standing in front of you today and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”  what would you say?

Maybe our lack of clarity in what we really want is what prohibits us from making the right request of Jesus.

Check out this song.  Maybe this is what we should be asking.   Brandon Heath basically says, “I want to see.



Friday, October 05, 2018

Got Any Laughter?

*Note:   Our family is going through some tough stuff which has made me drop off of social media.  But I thought I'd share this .... because it really has been a secret to us making it through the hard times and it's going to get us through this one as well.  Well, that and a lot of prayer, patience, grace and reliance on our big God.

Tonight I get to do “stand up” in front of a group of parents at our conference in Virginia Beach who are caring for kids from hard places.  I love to laugh — and I love to make people laugh — and we have survived the last 22 years by laughing.   A lot.  In fact, I share with folks that this has been the secret to our survival — being able to see the humor in so much of what we’ve been through.

In fact, even this past couple weeks we have been able to find ways to laugh in the midst of it all.

I shared the end of this Psalm with you a couple days ago.

Here’s how it begins:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Finding things to be thankful for and reasons to laugh and to recognize God’s goodness in the middle of the mess, whatever you’re going,  through is always an option.   

In fact, the very fact that God rescued us, changed us, redeemed us, saved us, forgave us, transformed us, …. that’s worthy of joy and laughter in and of itself.

So find something that makes you laugh today….

Maybe this will.  You don’t have to read it — but here’s a glimpse into what life was like when I wasn’t representing anyone but myself when I blogged.  This is one of the more appropriate entries I found when looking this morning and it was during the time when we had a bunch of teenagers who were not doing legal things.    It was a dark time, but we still found lots of things to laugh about.  Here are a few of them.   Enjoy the memories.  I sure did.




Monday, August 27, 2018

Got any Failures?


When was the last time you felt like a failure?  It could have been as long ago as ten years, or for me, less than 72 hours ago, but we all have times when we feel like failures.  And it’s definitely true that we all fail.  Because we are human, we miss the mark and don’t live up to our potential.   

Have you ever stopped to think about how many of the ten commandments King David broke?  Do the exercise.  It might surprise you…. but then it might encourage you, because after all of that, he was still called a “man after God’s own heart.”

They key to getting beyond our failures is to honestly repent and be willing to believe that God has forgiven us.  Check out some verses from Psalm 51 when David was calling out to God after Nathan confronted him following his sin with Bathsheba:

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.


If we have a broken and contrite heart, God sees that.  He knows our hearts and He is there, through Jesus, to forgive us, no matter how many times we fail.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Got any Desires?

If you have known me for a reaallllyyyyy long time, like since the previous century, you may remember this truth that God taught me way back in the early 90s.   I had a job that I enjoyed immensely as the Dean of Student Development at what was then Bartlesville Wesleyan College.  My fourth year there in that position God began stirring my heart about the country of Mexico and I ended up leaving my job, selling everything I had, and moving there for a couple of years to help a Bible college get accredited.

As I was raising my own support to head there, I used this verse from Psalm 37:4:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Prior to that summer, I had always interpreted that verse as saying that if we will delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us what we desires -- the desires of our heart.  But I came to understand that if we delight in him He will give us the desires themselves.    The more we delight in Him, the more the desires we have align with His desires and the more they lead us into adventurous, radical, 100% outlandish places that give us the fulfillment we can't even imagine.

The first desire that He gives us is a desire to know Him, a desire FOR Him, a desire to have Him be the center of all that we are.   But then He goes farther and gives us the desire to serve others, the desire to pursue His dreams, and the desire to make our lives count the way that HE wants to make them count.





Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Got Any Valleys?


I bet you are thinking that I will soon run out of metaphors that describe bad times in our lives.   Not yet!

A valley is different than the others though, because we often picture it between mountains.   So a valley can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing.

A valley is a good thing when your mountains represent really hard climbs and difficult situations — they are a break between trials.  But when mountains represent mountain top experiences, then valleys aren’t so great.

When I was a teenager, I loved youth camp.  It was my favorite week of the year and I am still in touch with many of the people who went to camp with me 40 years ago.  Yikes.  Typing that made me cringe.  But I digress…

Our youth camp was nestled deep in the mountains of Colorado, so we had literal mountain top experiences.   I remember coming home just knowing that I would be able to sustain the spiritual power and presence of God like I did at camp.  This year, I would tell myself, I would be that person that I knew I could be long after I got home.   And then I would walk into my house and was greeted in a not-so-pleasant way by my younger brother and it all fell apart immediately :-)

You know what I’m talking about though, right?  Does does some amazing thing and we are flying high, convinced that it is going to last and suddenly it is over.  The feelings go away.   The key is to remember that when the feelings fade, God is still there.  That part doesn’t change.

One of the most significant examples of this is the story of Jesus and Peter, James and John when they went up to a mountain and saw Jesus transfigured in  Matthew 17.  Immediately impetuous Peter says — Hey, this place is great.  Let’s put up some tents and just stay right here.  But Jesus knew that life is not a series of those emotional highs and they leave the mountain.  

In Scripture the very next passage is about a demon possessed boy.  Now I’m not comparing my youngest brother to someone demon possessed (thought I’m sure I thought that as a teenager) but you get the picture.  Sometimes emotionally charged spiritual experience come back to back with darkness and we have to figure out a way to make it through those days.

If you are on a mountain top, enjoy it!  Rejoice in those great times …. but realize that there will more than likely be a valley to follow.  And if you are in a valley, realize that there will be another mountain top soon enough — it’s just the rhythm of life.

This song got me through the valleys of my youth.   Anybody else listen to this about a zillion times a few decades ago?


Or if you’d like a more modern version of the same concept.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Got Any Doubts?


So, do you have any doubts?  Most people do.  Even people that you would expect have it all together and are confident and self-assured still have an inner voice that says, “Am I really the right person for this job?  Can I do what I’m being asked to do effectively?  Am I really making a difference?

Self-doubt can plague us, especially if we allow ourselves to be seen through the eyes of our biggest critics.   When we go down that road we start to obsess about the negative things people say and begin to believe them.   What if really am as ______ as ______ says I am?  

There’s really only one opinion that matters.


Play this song and let the words soak in.  It will do you good.