Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SOME ROADS I STILL CANNOT TRAVEL

I was forced to drive down a road today that I have been avoiding for more than two years.  It's the road to my parent's house.  More accurately, it's the road that leads to the house that USED TO BE my parent's house.
It's the road I have driven down thousands of times.  The happy road. The Mommy road. The Daddy road. 

Now it is not the Mommy road, not the Daddy road.  It's just a road that used to have happy on the other end.  It brought me to the people who loved me most, loved me longest, loved me deep.  

Without realizing it, I drove on it again today.  I saw a house that is painted maroon that my mother always commented about.  "I love that house" she would say every single time we passed it.  I passed it today and there was silence.  Does anyone care that my mother loved that house?  I do.

I apologize to God for missing my parents.  I explain to Him that I know they are in His presence. I know that are fully alive.  I acknowledge, for the umpteenth time,that I realize they lived long, blessed, happy lives.  I understand that my life was blessed because of their lives.  I realize people all around me are enduring deeper pain than the loss of two parents in their nineties.  BUT....


I.
Just.
Miss.
Them.

I miss what used to be. I still do.  "Lord, I still cannot drive down this road.  It's two and a half years and I cannot do it."


"So. Don't."

What?  I don't have to?
OH.  He understands?
OH.  He doesn't care that it's two and half years?
OH.  OH. OHHHhhhhhh.

Sometimes, some "roads" don't lead to happy anymore.  When we drive on those roads, it reminds us that what used to be there isn't there anymore. 

We don't like to be reminded. 

We miss what used to be waiting at the end of that road - a happy marriage that became unhappy and angry and ended; a house filled with children needing to be raised who are gone and grown and don't need us anymore; a life focused on doing God's will that got off balance and lost it's way; a friend who betrayed us; a child who is lost.

We cannot travel those roads anymore.  It still hurts too much.

The God filled with compassion and mercy says, "So, don't."

Let Him heal you in His time.
Until then, it's o.k. to avoid the road that continues to break your heart.  It's o.k. to focus on the goodness of God and not the weakness of humans.
It's o.k. to be broken.
He came to heal the broken hearted

He will heal us.
Because that's why He came.
He doesn't reject us because we are broken.
He isn't disappointed because we are bruised.
It's o.k. to avoid some roads... for now.
He will lead us in the path that we should go. 
And He is always waiting at the end of every road. 
To welcome us in to His presence.
Where there is JOY beyond measure.


"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." 
Matthew 12:20



Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE NECKLACE


Years ago, exactly one month before my birthday, I had to borrow my husband's car. I was having lunch with one of my editors in downtown Nashville.  I don't remember WHY I was using his car, and he was using mine that day.   Because I am significantly shorter than my husband, when I got in the driver's seat I had to pull it forward all the way so that I could reach the peddles.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I glanced in the car as I locked it and saw a white box.  About the size of a box you might put your wife's birthday gift in.  It must have been hidden under the driver's seat and when I pulled it forward, it was uncovered.

The right thing to do would have been to ignore the box. The wrong thing to do would have been to unlock the car, grab the box, open it, and see a necklace inside that I had been looking at every time we went to the mall. The really evil thing to do would be to take the necklace out, and wear it. 

I did the wrong and evil thing. I am ashamed.  
My friend looked at me in disbelief. 
What can I say?

On the way home, I called my husband to tell him I was on my way home. I started to talk about my birthday and how excited I was that it was just a month away.  He said, "You found the necklace, didn't you? I thought about it being there after you left.  I forgot to take it out."

I confessed to finding it and to wearing it. 
"YOU TOOK IT OUT AND WORE IT???"
"Yes." 

When I got home that day, he went out to the car and retrieved it from where I had tried to re-hide it.  
He handed it to me and said,  
"Happy Birthday"... but it wasn't the same.  I have no idea what plans he had in his heart for that gift to be given to me.  I have no idea what he wanted to say when he gave it to me.   I will never know. Never know what might have been if I had just waited for Phil's plan to unfold.  Every time I wear that necklace I remember how I messed up the love behind it by being impatient.  I still got the necklace, but not the way Phil wanted me to have it.

Psalm 106 talks about God's chosen people.  It talks about the amazing things He did for them.  And it speaks about how they "soon forgot what he had done and DID NOT WAIT FOR HIS PLAN TO UNFOLD." (v. 13). 

I want mostly good things in life.  I want good everything.  And when something isn't perfect, I get impatient waiting for the gift of God's mercy and grace and kindness to me.  When something is bad, or difficult,or crushing me... I want to help God.  I take matters in to my own hands. 
Forgetting that God has a plan. God has The Plan.
And sometimes I have to WAIT for it.

Psalms 106 and 107 talk about people who find themselves in messes.
People who took things in to their own hands.
People who did not WAIT to see God's plan unfold.
In fear or frustration they did what they thought should be done.

Even so, there is hope for those of us who do not wait.  Those of us who mess up The Plan.  It happens if we humble ourselves and CRY OUT TO HIM. "GOD, HELP!! HELP!!" 

He hears. He helps.  He rescues.  He loves. We may ignore His promises to us.  But He never does.


"He took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented."
Psalm 106:44-45

Monday, August 7, 2017

THE FINISHER


A long time ago a friend of mine was talking to me about my dream of being a writer. 
He said something that hit me between the eyes. He said, “You know, the world is filled with two kinds of writers: Writers who talk about writing, and writers who write!” He was inferring that I was the first kind of writer. A writer who talked about writing without actually writing anything. He was right. That’s who I was. I’m sure he didn’t realize at the time time that his words so annoyed me, that his words so identified and exposed me and my lazy dreaming, that I became a writer who wrote. I just wrote and wrote and wrote. And when an editor asked to see something I had written (Thanks, Wanda) I had something to show. And because of that I became a writer who was published. (Thanks again, Ivey.) And then I became a writer who wrote a book. And now I am a writer who has a major publisher releasing that book in the Spring of 2018. Hooray. It’s funny how God opens doors when we do what we are called to do. True, I have not won the Nobel Prize for writing and have not been on any Best Sellers list. (yet). But I am a writer. Thank God for friends who spur us on to good works. Thank God for my friend who challenged me.

I have learned something else about writing. It is more than simply getting an inspired idea. It is more than having five hundred catchy (at least I think they are) titles for possible books and articles and songs. Writing involves FINISHING the creation you STARTED.

FINISHING is the real work of writing. I have scores of songs (pardon the pun) that are not finished, and therefore no one has ever heard them. In order for you to hear a song I’ve written, I have to FINISH the song. In order for you to read a book I’ve written, I have to FINISH the book. In order to see a painting a painter has painted means the painting was FINISHED. A twist on my friend’s sentence to me might be “There are two kinds of writers: Writers who begin and don’t finish, and writers who write and won’t stop until they are FINISHED.” Beginning is easy. Finishing is hard.

The Bible refers to Jesus as an Author. Well, not just AN author, but THE Author. The Author of our Faith. We have a NEW life because of Jesus. We are NEW CREATIONS. What we have become has not existed until Jesus put life in to us, breathed His Spirit in to dead, dry bones. In this life with Jesus, beginning is easy. To us it can seem like FINISHING is hard. We don’t know if we have the strength, or the faith, or the will to endure. FINISHING is the whole point. Getting HOME. OVERCOMING. It’s exhausting at times. We toy with the idea of simply giving up. It’s because we think we have to finish the story in our own power, by our own strength, in our own wisdom. But wait! Wait! Hold on!!Hebrews 12:2 tells that Jesus is not only the AUTHOR of our faith, but the FINISHER. He finishes every new creation He begins.
Relax.
THE FINISHER is at the right hand of The Father. He is interceding. He has shared every victory with you.  He has already OVERCOME the world. Relax. You can cast ALL your cares on Him, because HE CARES FOR YOU. Relax. Jesus never starts something He doesn’t finish. He finished His work on the Cross. He said, “It is FINISHED.” And you? And me? We may give up on ourselves, but REMEMBER THIS: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

The FINISH line is in sight whenever I keep my eyes focused on the Finisher.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

PLATITUDE PARALYSIS

The word "platitude" finds its root in the French word "plat" which means ""flat." (What is this?  A blog? Or an English class?)

A platitude is a phrase that is used so often that it doesn't hold any meaning - to the person saying it or the person hearing it. 
We have been afflicted with Platitude Paralysis.  It's a disease of the spirit, soul and body. 

We may not recognize the symptoms of Platitude Paralysis because it has so infected us that we are accustomed to being sick.  This hideous infection has created a society of people who don't believe anything anyone says anymore.  And who can blames us? 

Advertising platitudes:  "the best car deals in the Midstate" - "the best steak restaurant in Tennessee" - "the friendliest church you will ever visit" have been the seeds that have infested our hearts, our minds and our souls with Platitude Paralysis.  Because we discovered we DID NOT get the best car deal, it WAS NOT the best steak restaurant, and that church was the UNFRIENDLIEST place you've ever been to.

This morning I read a verse that burned in to my eyeballs and heart. Platitude Paralysis existed in the days of Moses.   The Israelites were living in horrendous slavery and under the rule of a cruel Pharaoh. God tells Moses, "HEY! Guess what? I'm going to deliver My people. I'm going to answer their prayers. I'm going to make them free and not slaves, and give them the land I promised to your ancestor, Abraham!" And here's the verse that got to me:

"Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they DID NOT LISTEN TO HIM because of their DISCOURAGEMENT and HARSH LABOR." (Exodus 6:9)

Who can blame them? Which of them had the power to flee from Egypt? Who would be insane enough to think slaves could overcome the vast armies of Pharaoh? Life had never been a land of milk and honey.. for decades...  All of sudden, Moses, we are going to be free? Yeah. Right.

When life becomes so harsh, so filled with burden and labor, we give up hoping that God is going to do anything, much less DELIVER US. 

But here's REALITY about the words the Israelites did not listen to.
It was not a platitude.
It was a promise.
A promise that came true.
Right before their weary eyes.

God keeps His promises. 
The good news about that story is that the outcome was not based on the faith of the people, but on the promise of God. 

After a while, the people got up and moved because Pharaoh told them to go.  God comes to us in our discouraged, depleted hearts and creates a scenario where we move... because we have to.  He delivers us from slavery even while we have learned to live with it. It's not your faith, it's God's promise to you that will set you free.

Today, your slavery may seem like it is never going to end.
Your life may be at it's lowest point. You are paralyzed because you think the promises of God are just platitudes.. so you never walk like someone who believes them.

You may think this blog is just more printed platitudes...

Let me remind you that Moses was telling the truth.
I am also.  
You cannot deliver yourself.
God heard the cries of His people.
He hears your cries too.
The Holy Spirit will give you the faith to believe, the power to walk out that faith, and the hope to keep going until you see the promises of God become reality.

Ask for the Holy Spirit to invade your heart and mind.
He will. You will walk away from your slavery. Only because the Holy Spirit is working in you. HE delivers us.
You will not be the same.
A platitude?
No.
A promise.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I'M SORRY YOU DIDN'T LOVE ME MORE

I'm sorry you didn't love me more.  
I know how desperately I loved you. Few people have experienced being loved that way. Being loved that fully. To be loved just for being. That's the way I loved you.  You know that. You felt it. You found your home in my love...for a while.  

I'm sorry you didn't love me more than you loved other people and other things because then you would have been that rare human walking through life having found what humans search for. I am what you were and are looking for.  My love. For you.  It is intense. It is light in the darkness.  It causes you to be fully alive.  It is what you are seeking.  

I'm sorry you didn't love me more because I am the one who really knows you. Who really saw you.  Who truly understood your heart, your broken places and your strengths. I saw the reason for your weakness and they never made me love you less. I wanted you to be the you that our Father created you to be when He created you.

I'm sorry that you didn't love me more because then your commitment to me would have caused you to make changes in your life.  You would have found a place for me in your life, pushing other people and other things away so that I could be in your life. In your heart.  

I'm sorry that you didn't love me more because then you would have understood the heart of love.  It never changes. It never stops.  It remains.  Time has not diminished that love you so freely dismissed.  Because I know you, I know you wonder if the weeks, the months, the years, the decades since you foolishly believed you could live without my love have caused me to forget you...have caused me to love you less...They have not.  I love you the way I loved you the first moment you knew that I loved you.

I'm sorry you didn't love me more because the kind of love I offered is not demanding, doesn't want it's own way...  And if you wanted to leave.. if you wanted to stay committed to other people.. other things....I could never have forced you to stay. Despite all I could have done.. I could never had demanded that you love me the way I love you.  

I'm sorry that you didn't love me more because I have to watch in desperation as you continue to search for what you already had. In me. In my heart.  .

I'm not telling you these things to make you feel bad.  

The real issue is not the way I feel about you.
But the way you feel about me. 

I'm sorry you didn't love me more.
Are you?


"I have loved you with an everlasting love"






Saturday, June 24, 2017

THE BABY IN THE PICKUP TRUCK



Last week, my husband and I were blessed beyond blessed to have our grandchildren stay at our house for three days while their parents were out of town. They are all teenagers now. My grandson left early to go to the farm next door to to help harvest green beans with the farmer there.  He’s a hard-working, good-looking kid.  My only grandson. 
My two granddaughters, 15 and 13 years old, and I decided to go shopping. My fifteen-year-old granddaughter was sitting in the passenger seat in the front.  A baby in a pick-up truck pulled up next to us.  At least that’s how he looked to me.  He must have been about eighteen years old, kept driving close to us, and staring at my granddaughter like she was a cheeseburger and he hadn’t eaten in months. I have very beautiful granddaughters.  I don’t blame the guy for wanting to gaze at their beauty.  After a few minutes, he threw any idea of being subtle out the window.  He slowed down when we slowed down, and sped up when we sped up.  It was funny.  He wasn’t being weird or inappropriate.  He was a guy in a pick up truck looking at the beautiful girls in the Honda CRV. 
             I said out loud to my granddaughters, “I hate when guys do this to me.  They keep trying to look at me, and flirt with me. I’m a married woman. And here, my two granddaughters are in the car with me while he’s doing it. I’m so embarrassed.”  
            My granddaughters, who get my kind of snide humor, laughed out loud and loudly.  It's obvious an eighteen-year-old in a pickup truck was not trying to look at "Mema."  I’m not saying I look like Quasimodo, or that my husband screams in terror when he sees me in the morning… but…. I WAS NOT THE PERSON THE GUY WAS ATTRACTED TO AND STARING AT.  It wasn’t MY beauty, or MY car, or the way I was driving it, or the music playing from it that caused him to stare. It was the beauty of another person in the car with me that was drawing him to my car.  It was her sheer beauty. IF I was serious about thinking that the guy was checking ME out, I would have looked like a fool. I would have been a fool. I would not have been walking in truth.  I would not be giving credit to the beauty that is my granddaughter.
            It got me thinking about the fact that Jesus is driving in the “car” with me as I go through life.  It is Jesus who has the beauty that will draw broken people to see Him. They may be looking at me, but it is Jesus they want to see, NEED to see.  As I have been traveling non-stop the last eighteen months, talking about my mom and her life, it is Jesus in my mother that is the reason her life is being magnified.  She was magnificent for sure, but her only request from me as we were reading my book about her together was, “Point to Jesus. Don’t point to me.” It isn’t my mother that people are drawn to – it’s her love affair with Jesus that they are drawn to and changed by.   It isn’t my words about her, or my songs, or my talent, or my wisdom that people will want to gaze at. I look like a fool if I think it is.  It is Christ in me.  
            I have lots of friends and know many people who are spending their lives using their talents.  These talents we have are free gifts from God through the Holy Spirit.  We didn’t earn them. We didn’t ask for them. We were GIVEN them to share with The Body of Christ.  His power through these talents help us proclaim the GOSPEL of…. Jesus Christ.  We cannot be so focused on being sure that everyone knows what we have accomplished for God’s Kingdom. It makes us utterly ineffective in bringing Living Water to anyone’s thirsty soul. An ounce of the flesh will kill a ton of The Spirit.  How foolish and ineffective we are when we try to put the spotlight on what WE do, and what WE say, and what WE are or what WE know.  God uses us for sure.  God uses our lives to reach the world.  God uses us so that the world will focus on the Center of The Universe - JESUS. 

To want people to focus on OUR accomplishments, our achievements, our church, our pastor... OUR ANYTHING is to continue to sentence them to living without Life.  To Dying without Hope. 

There is no song and no singer of that song who can bring LIFE to their hearts instead of DEATH.  Oh, they may enjoy the music and have a fun and happy night.  But we are called to RESCUE THE PERISHING.  Aren't we?   There is no Bible teacher, no speaker, no pastor, no worker who has the power to put eternal LIFE in to a DEAD HEART.  We must always remember to step aside so that they can see the Beauty that is Jesus Christ.

            The baby in the pick up truck wasn’t looking at me.

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
Galatians 6:14

           

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HOW TO EXPLAIN ELECTROCUTION AND DEATH TO A TODDLER

I didn't have those nifty covers you see in the photo to your left on the day my toddler son decided he didn't care about anything but sticking his fingers and anything he could find in to them. 

I should have thought about it before that day, but I didn't. And just like that, my son, Philip, could not be deterred from the electrical outlets.  I was trying to get us both dressed and out the door to go buy those covers, but every time I turned around, he was toddling over to the electricity.

I said "NO!" and he looked at me with his great big baby brown eyes, and just went right back to the new center of his universe.  So I slapped his little chubby hand and said, "NO!" and put him in his high chair.  HE WAS NOT HAPPY WITH MOMMY!  The tears and crying were immediate. The look on his face was heartbreaking.  Mom had turned in to a meanie.  I can STILL SEE the humongous tears that flowed down his face. I love my son. Beyond love.  I felt bad that he thought I was just being mean and keeping him from doing something he was enjoying.

And so I blurted out, "Philip, I wish you were old enough to understand what electricity is.. and what it does to people. I wish you could understand... I want to explain but you cannot understand yet..."

AND JUST LIKE THAT A LIGHT went on in my heart.
I was in my twenties.  I loved God, but didn't understand some of the things He was allowing and not allowing in my life. I'd had a sort of "attitude" with Him lately.  Doubting His goodness. Thinking He had it in for me.  
And as I spoke to my son, I saw myself.
Demanding to understand things that were beyond my understanding.
And not really knowing, or trusting, God.
He wanted to explain.. but.... I was too immature to understand.

My son didn't understand what electricity was, didn't even know he was a human being and that humans can be electrocuted. 
He just wanted what he wanted when he wanted it.
Just like his mommy.

Now he's a grown man. Married with children.
I can tell you with great certainty that he no longer wishes to play with - or stick things in to - electrical outlets.  He has grown in maturity. NOW he understands...though he certainly does not remember.. the day Mom saved his life by keeping him from being electrocuted. 

Just because we go through confusing times..
times that seem to make no sense...doesn't mean God is mean. It means that God's love for us can be beyond our comprehension.  It means that God can see our future and we cannot.  

Sometimes... there are just some things that a baby will never be able to comprehend.   It is maturity that caused my son to stop caring about electrical outlets.  It was love that caused me to keep him from them.


"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." 
Psalm 27:14


Monday, June 12, 2017

MY BIG FALL

If someone had put a sign like that in my kitchen the other day, I might have noticed the water on the floor.  If I HAD noticed the water on the floor, then I would not have slipped on it.  I fell and I fell in a big way. My feet flew out from under me and seemed to go about twenty feet in to the air ("seemed").  I fell straight down on my back and my head - and felt my right leg twist and turn in a way that it was not created to twist and turn. My husband was standing right there, in front of the kitchen sink, and he saw it all happen.  
I hit my head really hard. CLONK! We suspect I was knocked out for a few seconds - though neither of us is sure about that. My right toe was hurting.. and the groin muscle in my right leg was not happy.  

My husband, Phil, was at my side immediately. "Hon, Hon, are you o.k.?"  At that moment, judging from what had just happened, we both envisioned a trip to the emergency room, at the very least a sprained or broken ankle... or a slight concussion.  Or SOMETHING bad and hurtful.  

As it turns out I was perfectly fine.  My head didn't hurt, my toe was o.k., and there was nothing sprained or broken.  A few minutes later, it was like it never happened. My husband was a witness to the severity of the fall, and we both commented later that evening that it seemed like a miracle that I wasn't in a cast, or a hospital room.  

As I was reflecting on it all.... I thought about Phil, worried at my side, asking me if I was o.k.  He just wanted me to be o.k.  He helped me up. He hovered around me. He got me an ice thingy from our freezer to put on the spot where my toe was twisted.  He was in the fall with me.  It's like it happened to him. 

He didn't get annoyed at me.  He didn't mention that the water was on the floor next to the dishwasher door, and that I had probably spilled it there when I was putting a dish I'd just rinsed off in to the dishwasher.He didn't mention that I should be more careful. He didn't mention that he was disappointed in me, or that he shouldn't have had to stop what he was doing to take care of me.

All he cared about was rescuing me from my big fall and making sure I was o.k. and not hurt.

If you'd have asked me, just ten seconds before I fell, if I thought I was going to slip and fall - I'd have said a resounding "NO WAY."

And that's the thing about falls and falling - we don't expect to FALL.

Those of us who are The Formerly Fallen have let ourselves be convinced that we will never slip up and fall again.

So that when we DO FALL... when we give in to lust, or bitterness, or envy, or hatred, or lying... we are spiritually SHOCKED.

The main component of a fall is that it is not expected. 
We never EXPECT to fall.

We don't expect to have trials...big trials that shake our very faith.  Trials that tempt us to wonder if God really IS good.

We don't expect to be tempted... and furthermore to give in to temptation. Who? Us? Me? You? Sin? 

We don't expect there to be some slippery spot on our path that takes us from where we are walking, lifts us up in to the air, and slams us hard on the ground.  
We don't expect to fall.
And that's the problem.
Because we do. Fall.

My big falls have been devastating to me.  I expected them to destroy me.  I expected them to put me under for good.
But they haven't.
I am always surprised as I reflect on my life and my own weaknesses, that somehow Jesus has held on to me, and not allowed my falls to cripple me.  
It's a miracle of His love and mercy and grace. I can never stop thanking Him.

If you have fallen... 
Jesus is right there in the fall with you.
He isn't there to tell you WHY you fell. Not now.
He just wants to help you get up and get going again.

Don't hide if you have fallen.
You are not too low to rise again.

Look up.  You will see Jesus there, extending His hand and asking,  "Are you o.k.?"
Take His hand today.
Let HIM lift you from the floor.


"Out of the depths I cry to you,Lord. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,Lord, who could stand?But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you."

Psalm 30:1-4

I wrote this song years ago. Click on the link if you want to hear it.

MY LIFE IN A SONG - HE HAS FORGIVEN ME