Sunday, November 24, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "We Are Given What We Need"



There's a story about a 15 year old girl whose Mom had died.  Her Dad was a wonderful man....did everything with his daughter....ran marathons together, worked on homework and fixed meals together.  Until one day, they were jogging together and she noticed she was losing her sight.  Turned out, she had cancer in her eyes and eventually, lost her sight.

That was the day her Dad left her.

She could no longer feel his presence around her, hear his voice or know if he was even near.  She found herself forced to do everything on her own.  Simple things, like putting toothpaste on her toothbrush or mascara on her eyes.  Daily, she would yell out to the quiet, "Why have you deserted me, Dad?  "Why did you leave me?

In desperation, she put her running shoes on and ran a trail behind her house she knew by memory.  But she took a wrong turn and almost ran off a cliff.  And that was when her Dad ran to her side and stopped her before she fell.  With sadness in her voice, she asked him, "Why did you leave me?”  He held her face in his hands and said, "I never left you, Sweetheart.  I was here all the time."

The story then takes us back....back to him quietly moving obstacles out of her way without her knowing it...keeping her safe when she couldn't see him doing it.

"My daughter, you thought I left you....and as much as it pains me, you were right.  I stepped aside so you could be more courageous than you ever imagined.  I stepped aside so you could discover how beautiful you are inside and out and to challenge yourself in ways you never considered.  I stepped aside so you could discover how strong you really are."

"But I was always right here", her Father answered.  "No one believes in you more than I do.  You know that.  Think about how far you've come.  I gave you what you needed....not what you wanted."


This is the story of us, sweet friends.  I don’t mean just lake water invading a house or cancer spreading through your body, death of a loved one or broken hips or broken friendships. This is about our daily lives and specifically, my life these past few years.  If you haven't stood at the edge of a cliff at some point, I guarantee you will.  Sometimes, God has to step back so we can get stronger, so we can learn to trust....and realize how courageous and strong we can be whengiven what we need...not what we want.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Forgive the Speaker, for Her Sins Are Many"

 
 
Max Lucado almost always starts his talks with a prayer that includes this, "Father, forgive the speaker, for his sins are many" as he prays for himself.  I love this.  Oh, if only we all started our conversations with God this way!  To humble ourselves as we place our sins, one by one, at His feet, never to be mentioned again.

"Then she knelt behind Him at His feet, weeping. 
Her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them off with her hair......
Then Jesus said to the woman, 'Your sins are forgiven."
Luke 7:38 & 48

I've often wondered what God does with the tears I cry.  Psalms 56:8 says, "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.  You have recorded each tear and sorrow in Your book."  I think about the sinful woman in Luke 7 who boldly washed Jesus' feet with her tears and how much she must have cried to create enough tears to clean His feet.  Her remorse was huge.  

Many years ago, I repeated something to someone I knew I shouldn't have.  It fell out of my mouth faster than a Liz-speeding-ticket.  Although it was a truthful statement and I can sit here and attempt to justify and explain my reason for doing it, in the end, it served no purpose to repeat and, worse, it caused hurt to someone I cared deeply for.  I don't think I have ever felt more disappointed in myself  than I did at that very moment.  I cried buckets of tears daily over what I had done....how I had indirectly hurt someone I loved...and I begged God to forgive me.  He did....but I struggled to forgive myself.  Why?  Because I didn't feel I "deserved" to be forgiven.

In time, the deep scar of this sin began to scab and I learned I cannot hold myself to a different standard than Jesus Christ holds me to.  If He forgave me, then who am I to not also forgive myself? 

Are you hanging on to an unforgiveness......of yourself

It's time to remove this burden from your back and hand it over to God.  He plans on drop-kicking it off the mountain you've been trying to climb, never to be seen or remembered again.  Place your tears at Jesus' feet.....you are forgiven!

"Forgiveness is UNLOCKING the door to set someone FREE
and realizing that YOU were the PRISONER."
Max Lucado

Sunday, November 10, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "The Mystery Of Grace"

THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

A few years ago, my brother, sister and I made a trip to our grandparent's old home place in a tiny town in the center of Alabama.  It had been years since any of us had been back to this place we used to visit every summer and, in all honesty, it was never a place I loved going.  The crickets were huge, there was no running water, baths were taken in the river and an outhouse was not a place you wanted to visit in the middle of the night.

My grandparents owned 200 acres of pine trees.....oh ya....and a creek that ran right through the middle.  For as long as I can remember, my grandfather in his striped overalls and his train engineer cap, along with my grandmother in her long dress with an apron....yes...always with an apron....would drive the old pickup truck down to Blue Creek and pan for gold with their grandchildren hanging out the bed of the truck.  For my siblings and cousins, this was like going to Disneyland.  For Liz, it was pure torture.

But along the orange-clay dirt road to the creek, we would always pass an old wood-frame Methodist church with a cemetery next to it.  My grandparents would eventually be buried in that very cemetery and the memory of a bee flying up my niece's skirt during my grandmother's graveside service will always be with me, but the thing about that old Methodist church I will remember the most is driving by it on Sundays and hearing the black people singing from the top of their lungs.  Not a shy or embarrassed bone in their bodies......they loved the Lord and they wanted everyone to know it.



And as my siblings and I drove up that old orange-clay dirt road once again a few years ago, I SWEAR..I could still hear them singing.  The church has long been abandoned, the windows broken out, the grass was taller than the tombstones and a mild wind could blow the walls down.  But as I walked into this room full of memories, I found this old Methodist hymnal laying open on the floor, partially eaten by rats and laying among piles of old bulletins from 1979....opened to Page 285, "The Mystery of Grace".

And I smile as I think about that person who, so many years ago, set that hymnal down on the wood plank floor, just for me to find today.

Aww....the Mystery of Grace.
" But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
 2 Corinthians 12:9
 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Depart and be with Christ, for that is far better"


For years, I prayed the same prayer.  A pleading-kind-of-prayer.
 
I prayed that when the last day of my husbands life on this earth arrived, it would come easy.  He had endured much living a life with Multiple Sclerosis and I asked God to please give him a painless rescue on that day....whenever that day would be. I prayed this same prayer for years

And I had no idea on this very day a year ago....that He would answer that prayer in less than 48 hours.  He placed a fishing rod in Chuck's hand on Sunday & woke him to Eternity on Monday. 

So what will it be like at that moment when we take our last breath here?  If we trust and believe in Christ, we have nothing to fear; we are PROMISED that moment will be beyond anything we can describe or imagine.  While I was talking to God in my favorite chair in the living room that Monday morning, Chuck's angels were waking him and preparing him to head Home...unbeknownst to me.  I like to “imagine” the same angels God had placed next to him at his birth, were the same angels who whispered in his ear that morning and said, “Wake up, Chuck...it’s time....it’s the day you’ve waited your whole life for.”

Our years here on earth are but a millisecond in time compared to Eternity.  If we don’t get it right here, we won’t get it right there.  Read that line again....it’s the most important line you’ll read today.

I have cried buckets of tears over this past year....just like everyone today who is celebrating & remembering the life of their loved one.  But many of those tears that have leaked out of my eyes this year have been tears of Joy that my prayers were answered for this man I deeply loved and was fortunate enough to have lived life with.  Yes, I miss the practical jokes...I miss listening for the two words, “I’m OKAY” as I hear the sound of his wheelchair crash into a door frame on the other side of the house....and I miss holding and tracing the lines in his hand with my fingertips during church.  But I know that Jesus called Chuck home because He had a better life to give him.  And I know someday, Jesus's prayer for us to be with Him will overrule our prayer for a prolonged life on earth.

May God increase our "desire' to...."depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."  Philippians 1:23

Sunday, October 27, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Never Underestimate the Dazzling Light"



"And while he was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white."  
Luke 9:29

"Father, I planned on having the Hospice lady out just to chat....answer questions....fact-find really.  But while she was sitting in my living room, I saw a circle of light around her.....and I knew this was the route You wanted us to go."  (Liz Prayer Journal, 8-9-18)

Dazzling Light.  

A year ago August as we prepared to leave the Dallas hospital Chuck had been in for a week, his cardiologist sat us down, placed his hands on Chuck's knees and said, "I recommend you go on hospice."  We were shocked.....the word Hospice had never entered our minds much less our mouths.  I said, "Absolutely not" as we drove home that day...."We're not bad enough for hospice".  

But we agreed to "listen" to what they had to say.  Fact-find only.....you know, for that day in the far far future when we might need them.

She arrived a few days later.  A petite young girl who I made sure knew Chuck was no where near ready for hospice, although his entire medical history was sitting in her lap.  She smiled and said, "That's great!  Then we'll just make sure you have all the answers you need for when you do need us."  

As I fired off the questions to her that day, something strange started happening.  I noticed a small circle of light developing around her head.  At first, I thought possibly it was just a reflection of the sun, but the circle of light grew larger and brighter with each question and answer until I could no longer see her face.  Ironically, her answers started making sense for Chuck.  I was mesmerized by this light around her head....and I suddenly knew, without a doubt, this "light" was placed around her by God.  It was His sign to us.

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; Listen To Him!” 
Luke 9:35

We listened to that Light that warm Wednesday morning in August of last year.  A "Light" that helped take the sting out of death for us three months later...much like that light surrounding Jesus on the mountain that day 2000 years ago has helped prepare the world for His departure.

And His return....

Sunday, October 20, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Heart Eyes"


I'm a visual; meaning, I can learn easier the art of changing out my Jeep tail light by watching a "How-To- YouTube-Video" than opening my glove compartment and pulling out the instruction manual.  I'm a bit like Doubting Thomas in the Bible as I seem to have this need to "see" for myself rather than read or hear about something. 

As I was reading the story of the Road to Emmaus this week, I started "visualizing" myself walking that road with these two companions.  What would I have done if I had been walking that dirt road headed home from Jerusalem that day...full of disappointment and heartbreak?  I couldn't help but be reminded of how many times Jesus has been next to me on my own rocky road and I never recognized Him.   

What we tend to forget is, we were never meant to walk this road alone. We are so severely focused on ourselves and the weight of our struggle that we forget to look up and see the quiet Companion getting His shoes dirty next to us.  He's been there the whole time....we just refused to open our eyes and look into His.

It wasn't until Jesus broke the bread in their dining room that evening, handed them each a piece of it....a true representation of His broken body He had taught His disciples a mere 72 hours earlier....did the two on the road to Emmaus tilt their chins up and see who had been walking on the road next to them.  Jesus opened their eyes and they now saw with heart-eyes.

Sometimes He prevents us from recognizing Him so we can see with our
Hearts and Minds
before recognizing Him with our
Eyes. 

There is something so precious in the visual of Christ walking with us in our darkest hour....when we desire an answer....and His desire is that we know we have THE answer - Himself.

You are by my side...You go before me
You stand behind....You tell my fear to run
In the tragedy, You grieve with me
When I can't see...When I can't feel
When the pain is real...You are by my side

Sunday, October 13, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Standing At A Crossroad"

 
 
"Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road,
The tried-and-true road.  Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, "Nothing doing.  We aren't going that way."

Jeremiah 6:16-17 (MSG)

I am at a crossroads in my life right now.  I'm standing in the center of the intersection, looking east...then west....and then up.....waiting for God to grab my hand and guide me in the direction I need to go.  All I do know....is I want to go in the direction of the narrow gate, the dusty path that leads me Home.

The other morning I watched on the news as Judge Kemp, a Dallas judge, walked over to a young woman named Amber Guyger who had just been convicted of 1st degree murder....and embraced her...hugged her like a mother would hug her daughter....looked her square in the eye and encouraged her to choose the dusty eternal path.  As the judge quoted John 3:16 to Amber and to the world, she handed her a Bible to take and read in prison for the next 10 years. Why?  Because the Judge knew which road would get Amber Home safely.

I'm restless with sleepy Christians...those who are not listening to the FIRE alarms going off and to the Judge Kemps in this world....those who are living their lives for this earth and not for their true Home...who zip through these crossroads not caring whether they are on the right road or not.  As long as the road is paved and smooth, they are content.  It doesn't matter whether the road leads to Hell or not.  No amount of warning....no amount of pleading causes them to wake-up and look for that "tried-and-true" road.  The road to Hell is always a lot more fun.  Always.

Friends, today we are each standing at a crossroad....one way leads to Heaven....the other Hell.  What will be your eternal destination after this earthly life is over for you?  The most important question you will ever ask yourself is, "Which direction do I go?"

"Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many.
Matthew 7:13

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Growing Seeds: "When You Walk Through A Storm"


WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH A STORM

It seems right now, most everyone I know is going through an EF5 tornado in their lives.  There may not be wind or rain, but there are certainly storm clouds enveloping them with a strange darkness that has fallen on their path and the sound of silence from the only One who could rescue them is all they hear.  My heart is heavy with concern.....and my prayers are getting longer and longer each morning as I add names to the ever-growing list of people in my life who are barely able to put one foot in front of the other.  Tears are the norm in my morning quiet time these days.....and I long for peace to be a part of their lives once again. 


Then I hear these words: 
"The journey is too great for you".  1 Kings 19:7
And like a light being turned on in a dark room, I am reminded that this journey is indeed too great for us.....and that God invites us each second of each day to STOP and find REST in Him......rest that can truly sustain us for today's journey. Tomorrow we will wake to find ourselves a mile closer to our true Home He has prepared for us, but for today, let Him lead as we travel on. 
He shines His light one inch at a time in front of us. It's all we can handle.  And we are led, safely....one step at a time....out of the darkness and into the bright and shining light of Home.
“This moment, this place, is none other than a gate into Heaven.”

Sunday, September 29, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Jesus IS Coming.....Soon!"

 
 
Shortly after we moved to Mt. Vernon in 2001, I remember losing a bet with some friends over the Dallas Cowboys.  See, I never quite got over the Jerry Jones firing Tom Landry incident and hadn't been able to root for the Cowboys since February 26, 1989...the day Tom Landry was fired.  My penalty for losing the bet was I had to wear a sign, front and back, on the NE corner of I-30 and Hwy. 37 here in Mt. Vernon that said, "I Love Jerry Jones" for four hours one Sunday.  I was humbled....I was humiliated....I was thankful no one knew me in town.

A few Sundays ago, I crossed over I-30 and saw this man standing on that same corner holding a large hot pink sign that read, "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!" I sat through half a green light to snap a photo of this brave....yes...B-O-L-D man standing there for the world of Mt. Vernon to see proclaiming a message he knew we all needed to see.  Did he lose a bet?  Or was he just betting we all needed to be reminded of this message?

As I sat there staring at the man with the hot pink sign, I couldn't help but wonder if I had his same boldness to tell the world "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!".  Do I love my Jesus enough to share this news with the stranger stopped at the red light?  Would I be embarrassed that you, my friends...my family...would see me standing there practically begging you to "get it"? 

We are so quick to judge those who practice their faith different from us...and I'm first in the Guilty line, friends.  Before God and I became BFF's, if I saw someone in church lifting their hands in praise...totally moved by the Holy Spirit....I would be embarrassed for them.  If I heard someone yell out "Amen" during the sermon, I'd get a whiplash looking to see who said it.  What's interesting is, I was perfectly at-home lifting my arms at a football game or yelling out "YES!"" when a touchdown was made. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

But the closer I get to God, the bolder I'm becoming.  If I ask you if you know Jesus, it's not because I'm nosy, it's because I care what happens to you.  If I say I'll pray for you, it's because I long for you to feel God's arms wrapped tightly around you comforting you. If you see me lift my hands in praise, just know I'm boldly and humbly standing at the throne of God at that very moment, eyes closed, holding the hand of God.  I feel His breath on my soul and my emotions are so raw, they leak out my eyes.  I pray....I PRAY....you feel this too.
Jesus IS Coming...SOONER than you think.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "White Space, New Chapters & The Thorn"

"....even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God, so to keep me from becoming proud,
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 
Each time He said, "My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness." 
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I have often wondered what Paul's thorn in the flesh was.....a bad back?  Headaches?  Arthritic knee?  Does it really matter?  It makes him so real to me....him talking about this thorn much like we all have digging into our flesh.  Jesus' disciples rarely talked about things like this, but I am convinced God allowed Satan to place that burden on Paul (us), possibly to strengthen him, possibly to help him be a better preacher, better person, better example of God.  Wouldn't it be a waste of good paper here in 2 Corinthians if I didn't take that example on myself? 


"We miss the lesson when we pick at the thorn. 
The enemy would have us be so blind by the pain of the thorn that we can't see the beauty of the rose garden. 
Look past the thorn - His grace is enough for the thorn He chooses not to remove."

Wow.


Sometimes.....I feel as though God allows my thorns to prepare me for a new chapter in my life now that I've caught my breath from the last chapter.  I'm not sure what the next chapter holds.....more Pain?  Hurt?  Disease?  Death?  Truth is, none of us know what the words on the next page says.....what lies around that next corner we can't see around....but we do know God is there standing next to the mess ahead of us.  It's scary and although I don't fear the future.....I want to slow down and approach it cautiously.  I want to be sure my hand is out for Him to grab and walk it out with me. 

"Father, whatever is around the corner for me, hold onto me....let me feel Your presence.  Open my ears so I can hear You whispering.....open my eyes so I can see You....just like the white egret flying over me right now.....circling....making sure Danger knows Your presence is there.  Step me out of the white page of the last chapter into the next chapter of unknown.  Secure my breastplate....strap my helmet on.....and lets do this together.  Amen."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: " "The Same God Who Led You In.......Will Lead You Out."

 
 
"In some way or other, the Lord will provide.
It might not be my way.  It might not be your way.
And yet in His own way, the Lord will provide."

In much the same way I tend to use our personal flood years ago as a measuring stick of time, we Americans will always use 9-11-01 as a means of measurement in the history of our lives.  Chuck and I had been married four years when September 11 occurred.  His Multiple Sclerosis had not yet taken over his body and we were enjoying life as much as I'd ever enjoyed anything.  Life was good...it was safe....and we had no worries.

And then the clock ticked over to 7:46 am CT....

We remember what we were wearing....what we were doing....the confusion and shock we felt that beautiful sunny Tuesday morning that forever changed the way we look at the 11th day of September.  A notch in the measuring stick of time had just been created.  And we now worried about tomorrow.

Between the cloud of dust and debris, we saw America kneel and pray in desperation.  Prayers of protection and healing....of rescue from the evils of this world we wake up to each morning.  Many people prayed for the first time in their life that day....desperately needing to focus their blood-shot eyes somewhere other than the hole where there once were two skyscrapers:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.....
Look full into His wonderful face...

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”

And I am reminded of my own bloodshot cried-out eyes from the Red Sea moments that have happened in my life over this same measuring stick of time. 

And although many lost their lives that fateful day, even more didn't.  They experienced a "Red Sea" rescue, much like the Israelites ..who, scared and fearful...grabbed their children and helped their elderly parents cross between the walls of water as the Red Sea was miraculously parted just for them.  They followed the path where only faith alone could walk, until they reached the other shore.

"The Lord will make a way for you where no feet have been before.
That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape."
Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, September 8, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Can You Hear Him Whispering?"

 
Eighteen years ago when Chuck and I moved to the lake from Dallas, the only stores we were familiar with in Mt. Vernon were Brookshires, Vaughn's Catfish and the Exxon Gas Station.  Oh, and I almost forgot....a restaurant called Barnstormers with a cool plane hanging from the ceiling where McDonalds now sits.  It would be another 12 years before I realized we didn't live in Mayberry.....that there was another "side" of Mt. Vernon few of us knew about. 

Fast forward to 2014.  A single, young 22-year old local Librarian named Anna Hood was also noticing we didn't live in Mayberry.  She saw the kids who had no where to go after school hanging out in her corner of the square at the Library.  She befriended them...kept watch over them....taught them life lessons from the safety of the Library, and they fell in love with Ms. Anna.  She saw a need....she took a leap of Faith...and she opened The Bountiful House; a non-profit temporary after-school "home", complete with its very own family that included mentors, tutors, teachers and people like you and me just wanting to make a difference.  And because of her strong Faith and Trust in God, she never once asked for money.  Nope...not once.  And God always provided.

In the Spring of 2019, the Hilltop Baptist Church building located right smack in the heart of Mt. Vernon and across from where most of the kids live, was donated to The Bountiful House as a place to grow this little family, touch more lives and make an even bigger difference in the children of this sweet town.  I'll never forget driving up the road to the future "Bountiful Place" for the first renovation meeting two months ago.  I was expecting maybe 20 people....but the place was packed!   Volunteers filled the donated church to the brim!  Electricians, plumbers, concrete contractors, roofers, sheet rockers and general contractors were all sitting together ready to change the future of Mt. Vernon; all because one young Librarian had the Faith of a mustard seed.  I just couldn't stop smiling.

And neither could God.  Without His whispers continually on the hearts of many in this small town to donate their time, their pocketbooks, their skills and their hearts to secure the futures of our children in Mt. Vernon, this extensive project would not be happening.  It's in the whispers, friends...the same whispers that stilled the winds and the water...that whisper to our souls.

"He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another,
“Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” 
Luke 8:25

Lean in.....can you hear Him whispering? 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Follow My Voice Back Home"

 
 
When Chuck and I purchased our first Garmin GPS many years ago, he felt sure he had unfolded his last giant paper map taking up real estate in the glove compartment. The Garmin was bright and shiny and he was the first of his friends to get one.  He smiled like an awkward-skinny-toeheaded little kid with a new GI Joe.

Our first trip with Felix....yes, we named the GPS....was in the motorhome headed to Florida.   Having Felix with us was like having a third member of the family that shared information only when we needed them to.  We felt so smart when Felix traveled with us.

Until we ignored his commands.  Then we'd hear, "Recalculating", "Make a safe and legal u-turn" and, maybe it was just my imagination, but it sure seemed Felix would take a bit of an "attitude" with us when we didn't take his suggestions. 

Truth is, we had agreed to put our trust in Felix on this journey and yet, decided midway to ignore him and go out on our own.  It's the same way with God.  We place our trust in Him....we listen to His directions...until...we come to a road that looks better than the route he has mapped out for us.  We think we know best, so we leave the safe road and choose our own way.  Before we know it, we find ourselves at a dead end; confused, scared, and we're frantically asking how to get back on the "right" road. 

And that's when everything has to be "recalculated". 

But here's the really awesome part of this story:  Although WE changed locations, God's location never changed and His voice will always guide you home when you ask Him....even when you make a wrong turn.  He will bring you home no matter how lost you are...no matter how far you have roamed. 

Listen for His whisper to you...."Return to Me with all your heart....Follow My voice back home." 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: 'I Have Found My Rest"

 
 
"The leader of the synagogue,
indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd,
“There are six days on which work ought to be done;
come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”


My siblings and I grew up in a home that believed your salvation was based on keeping the Sabbath.  It was a required church law in our home, and we were expected to keep it if we were going to live under their roof.  It was the "most important" law to keep, Dad believed.

Keeping the Sabbath law in our home looked a little something like this:  On Friday, before Sabbath began, the house had to be cleaned, the car gassed up since we weren't allowed to purchase gas on Sabbath, and Saturday's family meal had to be prepared in advance.  Once the clock arrived at the exact minute it became sundown on Friday, the TV was turned off, secular music was stopped and the Sabbath had begun.  The 24-hours of Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, allowed us only to play religious games, attend church, visit with church friends (not neighbor friends) and watch the hands of the clock s-l-o-w-l-y tick by till sundown Saturday night arrived.

Sabbath, in my home, didn't look a thing like Jesus ever hoped or wanted us to experience.

As I became an adult, I began to understand the true blessing and meaning of this day I had so dreaded as a child.  I discovered it had nothing whatsoever to do with keeping a stringent and exhausting list of rules and regulations or keeping a certain day of the week, but rather, was a hand-wrapped Gift placed in my life for EVERY day of the week to help nudge me closer to God.  I discovered it was His Son that was my much needed rest. 

He took His royal robes off in Heaven, stepped down to earth and walked through the same mud we daily walk through, which now allows us to view Sabbath differently than the Jews did.  Sabbath is no longer about a certain "day" or all the many rules the Jews had to uphold in order to properly honor the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was now a Man; our precious Savior. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Terri Reeder Coleman"

 
 
The beautiful lady in this picture is Terri Reeder-Coleman. 

Terri was not just beautiful on the outside, but more importantly, was stunning on the inside.  I had the amazing privilege of knowing her personally...of spending time visiting, shopping and living life with her.  She loved life....and she loved the Lord more. 

You never saw Terri without a smile on her face.  She lived in Rockwall, but one of the places she loved to be the most was right here in Mt. Vernon...on Lake Cypress Springs at her Mom, Lena Mae Reeder's, home.  There was a sense of peace, quiet and communion here for her.  She had been through many difficult years of cancer and being here, I believe, helped her forget the struggle for just awhile. 

She was always ready for a new adventure...whether to Efurd's Peach Orchard where she whipped off her wig and posed under an antique hair dryer, or to the Pittsburg Prayer Chapel where she went straight to the kneeling rail, bowed her head and gave thanks.   Thanks for the family she was given in this life on earth....thanks for the blessings of two twin children she dearly and deeply loved....thanks for the life she was allowed to live during her 54 years on this earth. 

And today, we offer thanks.....for Terri Reeder-Coleman. 

One thing Terri "always-always-always" wanted to do when she'd come visit her Mom is go work in our Church Library.  Even in her weakest times, she loved helping organize the books, filing the library cards and decorating the room.  Her love for children and reading is the reason we are celebrating her life today by dedicating the Children's Section of our Church Library in her name.  I honestly can't think of anything that would have made her happier.

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So as you tour the Terri Reeder-Coleman Children's Library section today, whisper a prayer of Peace for her family as they remember the unending love they received from this amazing woman. 

You will never be forgotten, Terri.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Celebrate Failure"

 
 
A few months ago, I read an article by a lady named Sara Blakely.  Sara is best "known" for inventing Spanx; a female undergarment that takes our natural "rolls" and gives the illusion of a woman's idea of perfection.  Yea, this is probably news to you men, but my bet is, most every woman reading this either has a Spanx in her drawer or wants one. 

Sara's article was on Failure.  Celebrating Failure to be more exact.  Captivating topic seeing as Spanx generates more than $240 million in sales each year.  But she tells an interesting story....a story that we should tell our kids as we load up their backpacks for school on Monday....our spouse as they head out the door to a job they don't like....and to ourselves.  I, like most of you, have had a great deal of failures in my life, but when we pause and think back on that failure, many times we can see the "good" two steps ahead that wouldn't have happened if not for the failure.  I'd like to share a little bit of her wisdom with you today:

"Growing up, my Father used to ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we failed at that day.  Which was so interesting....he'd actually celebrate it.  And he'd actually be disappointed if I didn't have something that I'd failed at.

So I can remember saying, "Dad! Dad!  I tried out for this and I was horrible!" And he would actually high-five me and say, "Congratulations, way to go!"  And what it did was just reframe my definition of failure.  Failure, for me, became not trying...versus the outcome.  My Dad would encourage me that anytime something didn't go the way I expected it to, I should write down where the hidden gifts were and what I got out of it, and I started realizing that in everything there was some amazing nugget that I wouldn't have wanted to pass up.  Once you redefine Failure and realize that failure is just not trying, then life opens up to you in so many ways."

Friends, Sara was taught that one of Satan's most powerful tools in his arsenol is the Fear of Failure...a fact we should teach each of our children and ourselves.  But we have an even more powerful tool; we have the power within us to Celebrate Failure. 

Take that, Satan!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "What On Earth Are You Doing For Heavens Sake?"

 
 
We are confronted by an “either-or”;
either we love God,
or we love earthly goods."
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Funny the things we remember as a kid.  For some reason, I still remember what my older brother's high school response was when the yearbook editor asked him, "What do you want to be when you graduate?".  His answer?  A Millionaire.

Yes, my brother was counting that future money even before the graduation tassel was moved to the opposite side of his head.  He could see the big house with the nice lawn....the sports car in the garage....the cash in his pocket.  His goal in life was to be a millionaire.

Fast forward 40 years. 

God constantly and persistently tapped him on the shoulder, whispered non-stop in his ear and desperately tried to get his attention.  And what do you know.....it worked! 

He's now 60 and using his work earnings to pay tithe in his own unique way by helping others.  He sends large amounts of his monthly wages to God-centered organizations to help further the Word and keeps only enough to meet his simple needs.  He lives modestly, drives a used car and works long hours.  He's a wonderful man.

He has also discovered that by using his hands as a form of tithe, his spare time can be better served by serving meals to the homeless at a downtown Dallas shelter.  There's always a stack of $10 Walmart gift cards in his center console to hand out to those in need who cross his path....

.....and he realizes he will never be a millionaire. 

Because he chose something "better" than being a millionaire.  He chose a life of Giving instead of a life of Taking.  He chose to serve instead of being served, and he chose GOD instead of his original goal of GREED. 

I tell you this because I believe we ALL struggle with wanting our "treasures" here on earth.  The financial security, the "things" around us that bring us comfort, and we wrongly and quietly believe they will provide us the joy that God cannot.  But it's an illusion, my friends.  It's a mask the enemy has placed over a HUD home to make it look like a mansion. 

"The things of this earth will grow strangely dim"

My brother taught me the journey is so much better when we lighten our load....when we replace the burden of living for our life here on Earth for the forever life in Heaven. 

"A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God."
Luke 12:21

Thursday, July 25, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Why Do We Go To Church?"

 
 
A few months ago, several friends and I were having lunch when the topic of Sunday church service came up.  I listened intently as one friend voiced their desire for two Sunday services so they could conveniently go early, or late, while another voiced their desire for just one service where everyone came together at the same time.  One wanted a hand-raising, contemporary service with a band while the other demanded a traditional, formal service with the organ.... and both insisted their needs must be met if they were going to attend that church.

It reminded me of a sermon I heard several years ago by Francis Chan, a then-pastor of a church in California called Cornerstone Community Church.  He founded this church with 30 people in the early 90's and within just a few years, it had grown to over 6,000.  As the church grew in one of the wealthiest cities in America, Simi Valley, the need for more space grew as well.  The building committee met, discussed what kind of structure they desired, and then listened in shock as Francis suggested they build a simple, inexpensive open-air pavilion, complete with folding chairs, homeless people and highway noise, instead of a brick-and-mortar megachurch building.  It wasn't exactly the comfortable, picture-perfect structure the building committee had desired or had in mind.

Over time, Francis eventually left the Simi Valley church he founded, largely because "church" to this congregation had become more about enjoying the proper temperature in the sanctuary and sitting in comfortable cushioned seats....than studying the Bible.  He chose, instead, to pack up his family of seven and move to Asia and preach to underground churches who were more interested in hearing the Word of God spoken instead of being "comfy".

"One of the worst things that can happen is for life to be easy and comfortable"
Francis Chan

So it got me thinking, as our own church is preparing to go through a few changes.  What would happen if we took away the cool music and the cushioned pews?  What if the screens were gone and we, heaven-forbid, actually had to look up the scriptures in our Bibles?   What if there were no sound system or the stage was no longer decorated?  What if the air conditioning was off and the comforts were removed? 

Would God's Word still be enough for His people in our church to come together?  Just wondering.....

Sunday, July 21, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Courage To Fight Through The Darkness"

 
 
I just finished a local Women's Bible Study this week titled, "The Struggle Is Real".  Can you see my head nodding up and down in a majorly affirmative way?  Oh man, the struggle REALLY is REAL, friends.  Just ask the person sitting next to you; I'm sure they can give you an earful of struggle from their own life library. 

But this study reminded me a bit of the story of Jacob and how he and God wrestled (literally) and he came out of the boxing match both blessed and broken.   He came out with a limp that will be with him for the rest of his life....but the limp is a reminder of the blessing he learned.  He also had a scar from this fight that every time he looked at reminded him of the struggle...and the blessing that came from it as well.

Ever feel like you are one big scar?  I do.  Everywhere you look...every step you take, you see or feel the battle wound, yet ironically, you are stronger having fought through this battle and because of these wounds.  And that's the blessing.....when we can actually "see" and "feel" the scar tissue from the wounds we have received by being a participant in this life...and rejoice.  I think Matthew probably says it better than I can:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.
With less of you, there is more of God and His rule. 

You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

Matthew 5:3 MSG

If we can bravely stop running and instead, fight through the darkness and not give up until we can see the Light, we may walk out of the darkness with wounds and a limp, but we will discover God's power and presence is there waiting for us.

Have the courage to fight through the darkness, my friend......

Sunday, July 14, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "To See God In The Face We Face"



This week, we found ourselves serving the sweet children of Mt. Vernon once again through Lunches of Love.  It's something this unique little town of 3000 do each year for the last half of summer.  For several hours each day, we slow down our lives to look in the hungry faces of the children in this place we call home.  Their stomachs get nourished....their curiosity gets challenged...and their hearts are taught what crazy awesome love Jesus has for them....even if they don't know Him personally. 

Monday through Friday, you will find the Rotary, the Methodists, the Catholics, the Baptists and many many more, bending down and loaning their hands and feet and time, to a child who needs them.  It's the coolest thing I've ever been a part of....and in many ways, it reminds me of the story in Luke 10 about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Take a read...

"A Jewish man was traveling to Jericho when he was attacked by bandits....and left for dead.  
By chance, a priest came along...he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  
Then a Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side."  
Luke 10:30-32

But here's the difference: In Mt. Vernon, they stop and render aide and don't pass the one in need by.

"Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him...and soothed his wounds."

It's so easy to start and end our day overwhelmed with Life....with the pressures of work and home and TV shows that need to be watched.  We claim we can barely find the time to do what we need to do for us, much less for the stranger down the street.  But I dare you...NO...I double-dog dare you....to see God in the faces you face this week.  I bet you'll see them at the grocery store, at Dairy Queen,...and yes, maybe even next door.

"Now which of these would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.  
They replied, "The one who showed him mercy."  
Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

Sunday, July 7, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: L-I-V-E


One of my favorite authors once said, "The road ahead would seem obvious if you knew how much road ahead there was."

Unfortunately, no one tells you how much time you have to dance on this earth.  No one tells you if you have enough time to laugh till you hiccup or take a road trip up Pikes Peak or write that best seller.  If you knew how much time you had to live, you'd know how to live, right?

About 12 years ago, Chuck and I were given a peephole into our future.  We discovered that although he was walking fine at the time, he wouldn't always be walking fine.  His Multiple Sclerosis was marching forward in his tall body and we had a limited amount of weeks, days or years before his legs would soon fail him.  It was time to start living life outside of routine.  We were given a gift....a tiny view of the future...and what we did with it was up to us.

We let go of our tight grip on "Can we afford this?" and purchased a motorcycle trike.  We then wanted to take our trike trips to the highest mountains and furthermost oceans, so we added a motorhome to pull our trike to our growing expenses.  We hit the road and we figured out how to live without knowing when we'd die. 

Because we wanted to live first.

Have you ever wondered why God doesn't tell us the length of our years ahead of time?  Why that death date is a mystery until the day it knocks on our door?  I have.  But we discovered there was freedom in not knowing what was around the next corner.  What magical things were waiting for us as we closed our eyes and placed our fingers on random spots on the map as our next destination, simple things like listening to him breathe as he slept, and focused less on when that next hospital stay would be.  And I could see God smiling and nodding His head in affirmation....because He knew we finally understood one of the greatest gifts He gave us in this life here on earth.

To live.

"Your life is only a blink long -
and then you wake up to the forever that your life chose."